The numbers are growing, the trend is clear: more and more back problems are being dealt with on the operating table. Over 730,000 people a year subject themselves to a back operation, double the number compared to five years ago. According to aGerman study by the health insurance company Techniker Krankenkasse, a large number of the operations were unnecessary. In 87 per cent of cases in which patients were recommended an operation by their orthopaedic doctor, other experts judged the OPs pointless, says science journalist Frank Wittig in his report to NDR Fernsehen (North German Television).
Alternatives to operations
Experts and the Techniker Krankenkasse (“TK”) advise getting a second opinion before agreeing to an operation, a service which has been cost-free to TK members for over three years as part of the “Zweitmeinung vor Wirbelsäulen-Operationen” (second opinion before spine operations) scheme. “It is precisely for back problems that there are many alternatives to going under the knife”, says Michael Schultz, an expert at the TK. “Operations always carry hidden risks. For example, nerves and arteries can be damaged, or problems can occur with the scar and adhesion.”
Doctors and experts recommend alternatives to operations, such as treatment by a chiropractor. The first priority is to try and make the body flexible. At the same time, individual muscles are strengthened by specific exercises as the musculoskeletal system is stabilised. Because there is often a psychological, stress-related or depressive aspect to back pain symptomatology, a psychotherapist can often be of additional help. As a rule, the various treatment options are very successful when undergone in conjunction and can prevent an operation.