Myths And Facts About Backache

Our understanding of backache, its various causes, the different modalities of treatment available, and the surgical armamentarium and techniques have undergone a sea change over the past decade or so. 

But the myths prevalent about backache, which has been hounding us for zillion years, refuse to stop chasing us. Let’s see if we can break the jinx. Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery can rid you of backache and put you back on your feet in 2 days.

Myth – Once a backache patient, always a backache patient.

Fact – Correct diagnosis is the key that determines the line of management – be it medications, appropriate physiotherapy, or surgery. When the correct treatment complements the proper diagnosis, there is no reason for a backache to persist.

Myth – if I get operated on for backache, I will be bedridden forever.

Fact: Forget forever; with the modern minimally invasive techniques being used for operating on the spine the world over, bed rest is required only for a few days. Early mobilization and quick return to regular work and lifestyle are possible.

Myth – I have mild backache, and I can live with it with over-the-counter medicines/painkillers.

Fact: You may be correct, but then you may be very wrong if there is something sinister like a spinal tumor or metastatic bone deposit lying underneath undiagnosed! I remember a middle-aged lady whose first cause of concern was backache; investigations revealed a metastatic involvement of the lumbar vertebra. The subsequent search for a primary tumor pointed to a palpable mass in the breast.

Myth – Backache is only an ailment of the elderly – I am too young to have it.

Fact- Sadly not. I operated on a 16-year-old boy from DPS, Faridabad, who had extruded a disc and a 17-year-old gir1 with a spinal tumor – both of them had presented with a backache and nothing else! 

Degenerative diseases of the spine are more common in the elderly indeed. Still, with changing lifestyles, increasing incidences of obesity, poor sitting postures, lack of time, and commitment towards exercise/yoga, the age bar has come down.

Myth – I got an X-ray done from a local doctor) for my backache, and all is well. Why subject me to the dangerous radiation of MRI?

Fact – God willing, all should be well- if the local doctor says so, after seeing your X-rays! But if the pain is persistent or is radiating to any of your lower limbs – it should ring a bell. Present yourself for a short examination to a neurosurgeon and get an MRI if needed. 

MRI is a safe investigation and does not involve any harmful radiation but only magnetic fields (It is safe even for pregnant women ­, unlike X-ray!) Some patients find it claustrophobic, and of course, it’s a tad costlier than the X-rays, but it is good to get it done if your neurosurgeon recommends it. Early diagnosis and correct treatment are better than prolonged suffering with an unknown cause.

Myth – If I go to a neurosurgeon with a backache, surgery will be suggested/recommended (chuck the visit! I don’t want surgery)

Fact: Roughly 85-95% of backaches are managed conservatively (i.e., without surgery) by medications, appropriate exercises, posture correction techniques, hot fomentation, or various physiotherapy modalities. Only 5 -10 % of cases that are unresponsive to conservative therapy or have a primary surgical line of management need surgery.

Final Words:

Be aware of the backache. Be aware of all the myths and facts about Backache.

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