Back in control: alternatives to back surgery
Most people who have it say they wouldn’t wish it on their worst enemies. It’s chronic pain and best estimates say a 100 million Americans suffer from it every day all day.
Many turn to surgery and pain medications, but a Seattle doctor says we’ve got it all wrong.
It’s music for Charley Pavlosky: the sound of a solid tee shot on the back nine. Even sweeter today than just a few years ago: competing in the U.S. Open. Chronic pain stole away his favorite sport.
“Imagine the worse tooth ache you’ve ever had and it being your whole body 24 hours a day, and you cannot stop it,” Pavlosky told Ivanhoe.
After seeing countless doctors, Pavlosky found an ally in Seattle-based spine surgeon, David Hanscom, MD. He believed the root of Pavlosky’s pain was not an old back injury, but a fired up nervous system. Surgery was not the answer.
“I see patients every week that have major complications from surgeries that probably never should have been done. Chronic pain is a neurological problem,” Dr. Hanscom said.
How so? Our brains are designed to memorize pain that lasts for three months or longer. Once that happens, the ache may feel the same but it is now controlled by our nervous system, not the original injury.
“About five years ago my staff took that seriously. So it started with every patient that we would address sleep, stress, balance medications,” Dr. Hanscom said.
Along with recommending better diet and exercise, Dr. Hanscom said the pain fades. For Pavlosky, that was better than a hole in one.
“I have zero pain and that’s most of the time,” Pavlosky said.
In the last two years, 97 patients of Dr. Hanscom’s have canceled their surgeries after their pain vanished. Now to help more people, Dr. Hanscom has a book out, called “Back in Control.”
“Within three to six months, 90 percent of people get better without surgery,” Dr. Hanscom told Ivanhoe.
“I came to see a doctor and I wound up meeting a healer. And that was an extraordinary awakening moment,” Pavlosky said.
Dr. Hanscom said one of the most effective ways to keep our nervous system calm and avoid pain is through expressive writing. Simply write down what’s on your mind and then tear it up. Doing this helps separate you from your thoughts and creates a sense of peace. The doctor credits this exercise with helping him get out of his own pain years ago.
Contributors to this news report include: Jennifer Winter, Producer; Evan Borders, Photographer; Robert Walko, Editor.