When it comes to severe neck and back pain, many people are desperate to find a way to make the pain stop. Concerns about the severity of the pain, along with the potential thought that they can lose function in their arms and legs lead people down the path of having a spinal surgery.
Who can blame them? When you are dealing with a pain so bad, the comfort of your own bed is the only time you feel relief, then surgery really feels like the only option that you have. Many patients will get surgery on their neck and their back in hopes that they will have permanent resolution of their pain.
While some lucky patients may get full resolution of their pain, many people will find their pain returns within a few months or experience a new pain following a surgery like a spinal fusion. This is often classified as a condition called “failed back surgery syndrome”, which is a true code-able diagnosis. Following a surgery like this, patients who are still in pain often go down a road of pain management, and can become addicted to powerful narcotics like oxycontin and Percocet. Others will seek out more natural methods like acupuncture.
Many patients after a spinal fusion are reluctant to have a chiropractor touch their spine. After all, who would want someone twisting or popping a spine that has plates and screws attached to it?
Fortunately, for these types of patients there is a better option. One of the reasons that orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons refer patients to my office is because I practice a form of chiropractic that focuses on correction of the Atlas. While many chiropractors rely on manipulation of all of the spinal joints to help the patient get relief, my office uses a very gentle and precise correction procedure that eliminates any popping, twisting, or cracking of the spine.
The truth is, we can’t alter (nor want to alter) parts of the spine that are surgically fused. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t improve the lives of these patients. Many of the patients who continue to suffer after a surgery usually have a problem processing pain signals into the brain. Often times, the processing of pain is related to malpositioning of the head and neck. When the head and neck shift out of place, then signals from the spinal cord going into the brain get scrambled and misinterpreted. This usually results in the body being more sensitive to pain than it should.
When we correct the positioning of the head and neck, the brain is able to re-establish normal circulation and the tension on the spinal cord become reduced. This allows for more efficient processing and communication between the brain and the rest of the body. The truth is, when the brain is talking to the body better, the body is able to deal with the problematic tissues that are creating those chronic pain signals through plasticity and neurological re-wiring.
The best part of all, is that we don’t have to tinker with a part of the spine that is fused and locked in place. Unless the head has been surgically fused to the neck, there’s a good chance that the answer to your chronic pain may just be as simple as getting your head on straight again.
~Dr. Jonathan Chung, D.C.