Unrealistic Fear of Surgery Prevents People From Getting Even Basic Back Pain Help

9 for Spine Logo

BURR RIDGE, Ill., Oct. 19, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- People are so afraid of being told they will need surgery that they may not seek even the most basic help for their back pain, according to a recent North American Spine Society (NASS) member survey.

"It is heartbreaking to see that myths and an unnecessary fear of surgery are holding people back from getting even the most conservative help for their back pain," said Joseph S. Cheng, MD, MS, Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and NASS Public Affairs Committee Chair. "The truth is that surgeons spend most of their time telling new patients that they do not need spine surgery!"

The vast majority (90 percent) of people with back pain will get better without treatment or by using conservative treatments such as anti-inflammatory medication, exercise, coping skills and physical therapy. Spine surgery is recommended in only about one percent of cases, with very specific diagnoses, after a more conservative course of treatment already has been tried.

Despite these facts, patient concerns about potential surgery came up many times throughout the "9 for Spine" survey results. A startling 66.5 percent of spine specialists surveyed believe that fear of prospective treatments, including surgery, keeps their patients from seeking help for back pain. Many of their patients believe the myth that once you have spine surgery, you are destined to have multiple spine surgeries. Their patients also believe the myth that there is a high risk of paralysis in spine surgery. And a surprisingly high number of patients (12.7 percent) wait more than 90 days from the onset of their back pain to seek help from a spine specialist—far longer than the recommended four to six weeks.

9 Myths of Back Pain
Myth 1: Exercise causes back pain.
Myth 2: Surgery will cure back pain completely.
Myth 3: If I have spine surgery, I'll have to keep having spine surgery the rest of my life.
Myth 4: Spine surgery has too many risks, including paralysis.
Myth 5: Bed rest is the best cure for back pain.
Myth 6: If I see a spine specialist, I'll end up getting surgery.
Myth 7: If I have back pain, I probably need surgery.
Myth 8: Back pain is a normal part of aging.
Myth 9: If I take pain medicine, I will become addicted.

"9 for Spine" Survey Results

When asked what "back to basics" advice they would offer their patients to prevent back pain, more than 76 percent of the surveyed spine specialists stressed the importance of regular exercise and nearly 50 percent urged patients not to smoke.

"While our back is a very complex system of bones, nerves, discs, muscles and other tissues, keeping it healthy actually is pretty straightforward," said Dr. Cheng. "Right at the top of the list are some common sense things like exercising regularly, not smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight and using proper body posture and mechanics when using electronic gadgets or lifting heavy objects."

9 Back-to-Basics Tips
1. Exercise regularly to improve overall health and reduce the chance of back pain.
2. Do not smoke!
3. Maintain a healthy body weight.
4. Keep your core muscles strong.
5. Use proper body mechanics when you lift, bend or stretch.
6. Check and alter your posture frequently while using your laptop, smartphone or tablet.
7. Reduce stress.
8. Keep healthy, strong bones by taking calcium, vitamin D and doing weight-bearing exercises.
9. Moderation! Minimize the intense "weekend warrior" sports or housework activities.

The "9 for Spine" online survey of NASS members was conducted in July 2012. More than 550 members responded, including anesthesiologists, chiropractors, neurosurgeons, nurse practitioners, orthopedic surgeons, pain management specialists, physiatrists, physician assistants, physical therapists and radiologists.

The 9 for Spine Logo is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=15318

The North American Spine Society is a multidisciplinary medical organization dedicated to fostering the highest quality, evidence-based and ethical spine care by promoting education, research and advocacy. NASS is comprised of more than 6,500 members from several disciplines including orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, physiatry, neurology, radiology, anesthesiology, research, physical therapy and other spine care professionals. For more information on keeping your back healthy, visit www.KnowYourBack.org. Find NASS on: NASS Facebook and NASS Twitter.

The Spine Journal Logo is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=15275

CONTACT: Nicolle Heller, NASS 630/230-3650 or nheller@spine.org

Source:North American Spine Society