Individuals that go through severe low back pain caused by degeneration, herniated discs, vehicle, personal, work, and sports injuries, surgery, or spinal fusion is usually a last resort if non-invasive treatments fail to provide relief or not enough relief. Patients try to avoid spinal fusion because it can be an intense experience and requires a year-long recovery period. Unfortunately, individuals still experience discomfort and pain after surgery. Do individuals want to know what other treatment options are available, including chiropractic care?
Doctors will inform post-op patients of the risks involved with chiropractic therapy. However, chiropractic medicine can bring natural pain relief after surgery. Chiropractic treatment requires that an individual be adequately or fully healed before beginning a personalized treatment plan. At Injury Medical Chiropractic and Functional Medicine Clinic, we consult patients post-surgery about the effectiveness of rehabilitation spinal adjustments and physical therapy massage.
Table of Contents
Wait Time After Surgery
Spinal fusion surgery involves removing the discs between two or more vertebrae and fusing the bones with metal screws and plates. The objective is to correct conditions like herniated discs and degenerative diseases by immobilizing the spine in that area. It can take at least three months for the vertebrae to fuse for a fully immobilized graft. Once the graft is complete, a few months of physical therapy are recommended to loosen/stretch and strengthen the muscles around the graft. Initial recovery combined with physical therapy typically takes a full year for a complete recovery.
It is during recovery where it can be difficult and for discomfort and pain to present. The reason is patients are recommended to avoid any twisting, bending, over-reaching motions, or the graft could break. This can make an individual take on awkward poses/postures, flexing and contracting muscles incorrectly, causing strain. The result is added discomfort and/or pain.
How Chiropractic Helps
Spinal fusion is not guaranteed to alleviate an individual’s back pain completely. But many do experience discomfort or pain post-surgery. This could be for a little while or longer, depending on their condition or injuries. Fortunately, chiropractic treatment can help bring pain relief through mobilization, manipulation, and massage techniques. Manipulations’ objective is to adjust and/or realign the bones of the spine and other areas of the body. Because of the intricacy of spinal manipulations, many who have undergone back or spinal fusion surgery are hesitant to seek chiropractic treatment. Discuss possible chiropractic care with your physician to determine if the surgical graft is strong enough to withstand spinal manipulations. If the graft is adequately/fully healed and your physician believes it can endure mild adjustments, reach out to a chiropractor to discuss a customized treatment plan.
Body Composition Testing
Poor Leg Skeletal Muscle Mass
The gluteal muscles or buttock muscles are the largest muscle group in the body. Individuals can start losing bone density by their 30s. This increases the risk of injury and further bone density loss. Bone density loss is a natural process, but the process can be accelerated for individuals with under-developed skeletal muscle mass. The health of muscles and bones are closely linked. Researchers found that individuals with less muscle mass than average for their height tended to have narrower and thinner bones. This resulted in limited lower bending strength.
Decreased muscle mass was shown to be linked to balance problems and increased risk of falls. There is a higher prevalence of sarcopenia or muscle wasting for patients with hip fractures and a reduction of leg muscle mass. The combination of:
- Low muscle mass
- Low bone density
- Hip fractures
- It can have lifelong consequences
Fernandez, Matthew et al. “Surgery or physical activity in the management of sciatica: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” The European spine journal: official publication of the European Spine Society, the European Spinal Deformity Society, and the European Section of the Cervical Spine Research Society vol. 25,11 (2016): 3495-3512. doi:10.1007/s00586-015-4148-y
Keller, Glenda. “The effects of massage therapy after decompression and fusion surgery of the lumbar spine: a case study.” International journal of therapeutic massage & bodywork vol. 5,4 (2012): 3-8. doi:10.3822/ijtmb.v5i4.189
O’Shaughnessy, Julie et al. “Chiropractic management of patients post-disc arthroplasty: eight case reports.” Chiropractic & osteopathy vol. 18 7. 21 Apr. 2010, doi:10.1186/1746-1340-18-7
Perrucci, Rachel M, and Christopher M Coulis. “Chiropractic management of post-spinal cord stimulator spine pain: a case report.” Chiropractic & manual therapies vol. 25 5. 6 Feb. 2017, doi:10.1186/s12998-017-0136-0
Szulc, Pawel et al. “Low skeletal muscle mass is associated with poor structural parameters of bone and impaired balance in elderly men–the MINOS study.” Journal of bone and mineral research: The American Society for Bone and Mineral Research vol. 20,5 (2005): 721-9. doi:10.1359/JBMR.041230
The information herein on "Chiropractic Care For Individuals Post Back Surgery or Spinal Fusion" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN* CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
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