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Back & Joint Pain

Pomegranate for Joint Pain

Pomegranate for Joint Pain

As living beings age, people and animals alike, their bodies eventually begin to break down. Years upon years of movement, physical stress put on joints by exercise, and just the in and outs of everyday life tend to take its toll on a body that relies on effective cellular reproduction to continue functioning properly.

Cells in your body

The sad truth is that eventually the body’s cells age, become less efficient at dividing with ever cellular split, and ultimately hit what is referred to as the Hayflick limit, the absolute limit to a cell’s ability to divide.

Among the multitude of troubles that arise with aging is joint pain. Some joint pain as we age is not uncommon, but serious illness and internal complications can cause some to experience very serious joint issue, including osteoarthritis, one of the most painful joint issues to deal with.

Fortunately, there is quite an extensive list of treatments available for joint pain, some better than others.

The most common options for joint pain are prescription medications like Celebrex, Relafen, Anaprox, and Feldene, as well as non-prescription options like ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen. Neither types are without side effects.

Some of the side effects reported by Celebrex users are diarrhea, hypertension, and abnormal hepatic function tests, and more serious side effects like chest pain, weakness, shortness of breath, slurred speech, problems with vision or balance, bloody stools, coughing up blood or vomit, and more.

Even the more widely used painkillers like ibuprofen and naproxen are not without their side effects. Ibuprofen is notoriously bad for the liver and digestive tract, with complications from overuse ranging from upset stomach and nausea to liver damage and tinnitus, a ringing in the ears.

Pomegranate fruit

The threat of serious side effects has pushed many consumers away from prescription medications all together, forcing them to look for other, less invasive remedies. Fortunately for them, many holistic and natural remedies exist for joint pain, one of which, pomegranate, is gaining scientific evidence to confirm its efficacy.

A very recent study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition titled “Pomegranate extract alleviates disease activity and some blood biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in Rheumatoid Arthritis patients” confirms the anti-inflammatory benefits of pomegranate, specifically testing its efficacy for rheumatoid arthritis.

Because the main characteristics of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) are inflammation, serious pain, and flexibility problems affecting the joints specifically, researchers are actively seeking powerful anti-inflammatory compounds to fight the disease, moving further and further away from side effect-laden prescription medications and studying the benefits of natural anti-inflammatory compounds.

For this study, researchers enrolled 55 participants, each with RA, into two separate groups, one to receive medication and the other as a control. The participants receiving medication were given 250 mg of pomegranate extract for a period of 8 weeks, after which progress was monitored with methods such as a Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) and Disease Activity Score (DAS), serum concentrations of C-reactive protein (CRP), matrix metalloproteinases 3 (MMP3), malondialdehyde (MDA), glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) were analyzed.

Compared to the control group, the group receiving 250 mg of pomegranate extract experienced significant improvement in their DAS score, which researchers believe is the result of reduced inflammation in joints. Recipients also reported reduced pain intensity, morning stiffness, and increased levels of GPx concentration, an enzyme whose role is to protect the organism from oxidative damage.

Additional research on the ability of pomegranate to help treat knee osteoarthritis indicates similar results.

Among the most common musculoskeletal disorders, osteoarthritis leads to joint degeneration and severe pain as it affects more than 27 million people in the US alone. Initial studies purport that pomegranate extract can also have an impact on osteoarthritis due to its antioxidant properties, helping to mitigate cartilage inflammation.

Pomegranate extract

Tested on 38 patients over a span of 6 weeks, researchers found that there was significant decrease in pain, stiffness, and physical functioning of the joint. Like the previous study mentioned, this study also found increased levels of GPx which further substantiates the ability antioxidant capabilities of pomegranate, helping to protect the knee from further damage, concluding that “According to the findings of this clinical trial, PJ consumption can improve physical function and stiffness, decrease breakdown cartilage enzymes and increase antioxidant status in patients with knee OA.”

Pomegranate juice

It’s no secret that pomegranate is high in antioxidants. Touted for its high concentration of polyphenols, pomegranate juice is considered among the healthiest fruits on the planet, specifically for its heart health benefits, but with new research being conducted frequently, the benefits of this odd fruit continue to be exposed.

Pomegranate is part of a healthy diet, due to its high concentrations of beneficial ellagitannin compounds like punicalagins and punicalins, which account for about half of the pomegranate’s antioxidant ability. Pomegranate packs more antioxidant punch per pound than other, widely touted foods like acai berries, blueberries, concord grapes, cranberry juice, apple juice, black cherry juice, orange juice, and red wine.

In fact, pomegranate juice was found to be more than 20 percent more powerful than its nearest competitor.

As the west begins to look to the east more and more for traditional medicinal remedies, we look to foods as our primary source of health, as opposed to the common western sentiment that has, in a way, plagued western society, the idea that we can live an unbalanced life, eat foods that provide little to no nutritional benefits, and generally remain unhealthy because relief can be found in a bottle.

Healthy foods

Eastern medicine relies on proper diet and supplementation with natural remedies that are much freer from side effects, and can provide equal if not greater relief from damaging and painful degenerative diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.

MSM for Joint Pain

MSM for Joint Pain

Joint Pain

For those who suffer from it, joint pain can be incredibly difficult to deal with, as it often lingers long after the day’s work has been done. Unfortunately, everyone experiences some degradation of joint tissues as they age, eventually leading to ailments like osteoarthritis and other painful joint issues.

Osteoarthritis (OA), a type of arthritis that occurs when flexible tissue at the ends of bone wears down, is the most common chronic condition affecting the joints. Essentially, when the cartilage or cushion between the joints breaks down and leads to stiffness, swelling, and often intense pain.

When we’re young, our joints contain a firm, rubbery material called cartilage that covers the ends of our bones. This provides a cushion between bones and a smooth surface that allows them to slide easily. But as the body ages, lifestyle and simply age catch up to the joints and the cartilage breaks down. This deterioration of cartilage causes the joint to swell and stiffens the joint.

As osteoarthritis continues to develop throughout a lifetime, the bones can also break down, sometimes developing growths called bone spurs, causing bits of bone and cartilage to float around in the joint freely. This elicits the body’s release of cytokines and enzymes to the area, which eventually break the cartilage down further. Eventually, osteoarthritis leads to bone on bone contact in the joint, which creates more pain, more stiffness, and makes the joint practically unusable.

Statistics show that half of all people will eventually develop symptoms of knee osteoarthritis during their lifetime, and 25 percent will develop symptoms of hip osteoarthritis by the age of 85.

With it affecting nearly everyone at some point in life, there are a lot of treatments available for osteoarthritis, some require a prescription and others do not. For mild OA, the usual treatment is nonprescription pain relievers like aspirin or ibuprofen, and topical creams. Topical pain relievers are great for isolated pain management when just a few joints are involved.


Prescription medication most often prescribed are called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). These can be a little dangerous, as they are particularly bad for the stomach. The FDA warns of cardiovascular side effects and gastrointestinal bleeding as two possible risks, and some also include risks of stroke, heart attack, and life threatening skin reactions.

There are natural remedies for OS that, so far, have been found to have little to no risk of dangerous side effects.

One such treatment option is glucosamine-chondroitin supplements. Glucosamine and chondroitin are naturally found in the joint fluid and thought to trigger cartilage production and reduce inflammation, with some studies showing its ability to relieve moderate to severe pain and slow the progression of OS.

Glucosamine and chondroitin are quite popular supplements that can be found at nearly any drug or grocery store. There is another supplement that is often recommended to be taken alongside Glucosamine and chondroitin that can help boost the effects.

MSM or methylsulfonylmethane is a chemical found in many places like green plants, animals, and humans, and can also be created in the laboratory. While it is also a popular supplement for joint pain, there is only a small amount of research to verify its claims. What little research is available, however, speaks favorably of MSM as a possible treatment for OS.

While MSM is normally taken for joint pain, people take it for a whole range of ailments like People also take MSM by mouth for relief of allergies, chronic constipation, “sour stomach”, ulcers, a bowel disease called diverticulosis, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), mood elevation, obesity, poor circulation, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. MSM is believed to supply sulfur to the body, helping it make other important chemicals.

MSM works by supplementing the body with extra sulfur for creating methionine, which helps in important bodily processes like making other chemicals, forming connective tissue, synthesizing/metabolizing foods and absorbing nutrients to be used for energy. Biologically active sulfur is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and is necessary in many bodily functions. MSM is thought to help form connective tissue and repair joints, tendons and ligaments.


One study published in the International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology researched the efficacy of Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) and boswellic acids (BA) versus glucosamine sulfate (GS) in the treatment of knee arthritis.

Researchers conducted the study on 120 participants with arthritis of the knee for a 60 day period. Each participant was treated daily with either 5mg of MSM and 7.2mg of boswellic acids, or 1500mg GS. At the conclusion of the study, as well as 6 months later, each group was tested for pain using a pain scale, and joint function using the Lequesne Index (LI). Results showed that the group being treated with MSM and BA showed improvements in pain and flexibility at the 6 month mark. Researchers concluded from his study that MSM presents another possible treatment option for arthritis, which until this study was basically being treated with glucosamine supplements.

Another form of MSM being tested is Mega MSM. Researchers studies the effects of Mega MSM on participants for 12 weeks on a group of Chinese participants. 100 males and 50 females were given a dose of Mega MSM, and the study concluded that positive effects were observed, including improved joint function, relief of symptoms of joint degradation, and a general positive improvement in quality of life.

Not only has MSM been found to help with joint pain, but it is also being looked at as a possible treatment for many other ailments throughout the body, making it one of those rare substances that is almost a must have for everyone, providing a lot of great benefits in the body with little to no detrimental effects.

MSM can help rebuild the lining of the digestive tract, reduce inflammation, and is also useful in treating leaky gut syndrome, helping to ebb the flow of harmful particles from a leaky gut which cause inflammation.

We’re all going to get older, and with age comes age related illness and a general degradation of the body, but with proper research and an ever-expanding scientific knowledge of wonderful alternative treatments like MSM, joint pain and arthritis doesn’t have to be debilitating.

Rosemary for Joint Pain

Rosemary for Joint Pain

While joint pain can affect anyone, at any age, the most common cause of joint pain is caused by arthritis, and predominantly affects older people. Overwhelmingly the most common cause, approximately 350 million people worldwide suffer from arthritis, with nearly 40 million in the United States.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common chronic condition of the joints and occurs when the cartilage between the joints breaks down, leading to swelling, stiffness, and eventually a lot of pain. It is a degenerative joint disease, sometimes referred to as “wear and tear” of the joints. Most commonly affecting the knees, hips, lower back and neck, and fingers, joints with compromised cartilage eventually result in bone rubbing against bone, which causes the pain and inflammation.


Statistics show that one of every two adults will develop symptoms of knee osteoarthritis at some point in their lives. In addition, one in four will develop symptoms of hip osteoarthritis by the age of 85.

Couple jogging in nature

For those affected by OA, unfortunately, there is no cure, but there are treatments available. One of the best treatments for OA is, as counterintuitive as it seems, more movement of the joints. Exercise has been proven effective at treating osteoarthritis, including walking and light physical activity, which helps to strengthen the muscles around the joint and reduce pain and stiffness.

  • Most treatment plans combine activity with medicine, available in the form of pills, creams, lotions, or even injected directly into the joint. Among the most popular are:
  • Analgesics: Analgesics are available over-the-counter or by prescription, and are pain relievers like acetaminophen, opioids and an atypical opioid called tramadol.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): You’ve probably got a bottle of these in your cabinet right now. NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and celecoxib and are the most commonly used drugs to ease inflammation and related pain. They are available over-the-counter or by prescription.
  • Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory medicines. They are most commonly taken by mouth but may also be injected directly into a joint if necessary.
Hyaluronic acid close up
  • Hyaluronic acid: Another injected medicine, hyaluronic acid is found naturally in joint fluid, and helps lubricate the joint and absorb shock. For those with OA, this acid appears to break down, so it can be injected directly into the joint.

These treatment options have been, mainly, all that is available to those suffering from osteoarthritis. The unfortunate consequence to receiving these treatments is damage to other parts of the body. Corticosteroids have been known to cause side effects like clouding of the lens in the eye, high blood sugar, increased risk of infections, thinning bones, and suppressed adrenal gland hormone production, while long-term exposure to NSAIDs can result in stomach ulcers, headaches and dizziness, ringing in the ears, high blood pressure, and liver and kidney problems.

For those seeking a more natural alternative to these effective, yet potentially harmful medications, a better solution may be growing right in your garden.

Rosemary essential oil has long been touted for its ability to relieve pain, which makes it among the best natural treatments for headaches, muscle pain, and even arthritis. It possesses strong anti-inflammatory properties, making it a great treatment for ailments like joint sprains, aches, and even osteoarthritis.

Rosemary oil

Among all plants, herbs are among the highest in antioxidants, substances that remove potentially damaging oxidizing agents in a living organism. These oxidizing agents are called “free radicals” which when not addressed can cause oxidative damage to cells throughout the body, leading to many of the most common chronic illnesses. Rosemary is extremely high in antioxidants, which helps it fight inflammation in the body, helping with pain and inflammation in the joints in the process.

One study published in 2015 found that carnosol, a phenolic diterpene found in the herbs rosemary and Mountain desert sage, showed potent inhibition of pro-inflammatory and catabolic mediators of cartilage breakdown in chondrocytes, the cells responsible for creating cartilage.

Researchers cultured chondrocytes in either the presence or absence of carnosol, analyzing the gene expression after 4 days. In chondrocytes, type II collagen expression, one of the prominent components of cartilage, was significantly enhanced in the cells exposed to carnosol. In addition, researchers found that this rosemary treatment suppressed the pro-inflammatory response, which can help deter the breakdown of cartilage in the presence of inflammation in the joints.

Another study combined a proprietary combination of reduced iso-alpha acids, rosemary extract and oleanolic acid in patients with arthritis and fibromyalgia, evaluating participants with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia for pain.

Administering 440mg for the first four weeks, and doubling treatments to 880mg for the next four, participants reported “a statistically significant decrease in pain of 50% and 40%… in arthritis subjects.” Reduced C-reactive protein, a common identifier of inflammation in the body, further verified the effects of the treatment. The rosemary treatment relieved pain by as much as 50% and lowered inflammation in the body, all without the report of any serious side effects, making it among the safest treatment possibilities for OA and other diseases of inflammation.

Rosemary plant

Free from serious side effects, rosemary is yet another effective natural treatment for some very common ailments plaguing people across the planet. While some will scoff at the efficacy of “natural” treatments for serious diseases like osteoarthritis, the studies don’t lie. Participants repeatedly report positive effects when treated with rosemary for joint pain, inflammation, and stiffness, making it a great alternative to the harmful medicines that are all too common the cause of more damage to the body.

joint pain

Arthritis Prevention and Joint Pain Masterclass

The next time you’re driving down a highway take a look at the road surface. You’ll see where cars have passed over the asphalt and concrete again and again, causing grooves, bumps, and cracks. Anytime you have repeated stress on a surface, no matter how robust that surface is, it’s going to degrade.

Arthritis Prevention and Joint Pain Masterclass

woman holding onto her knee in painTake your joints, for example. You stress them every day when you walk, sit down, get back up, and when you’re lying in bed. It’s unavoidable. Of course, our joints are designed to withstand moderate strain, but for many unlucky men and women over 45, their joints are just more susceptible to damage. And once the achy and stiff damage starts, it doesn’t take much to make it even worse.

It’s like a toy car going down an already damaged and bumpy highway. If that highway is already beaten and broken, even a child’s small toy car can make the damage worse. It’s only a matter of time and repetition.

If you do not want your joints to get increasingly worse like the asphalt of a highway, you need a way to protect your joints from decay.

Learn about the five pillars of joint health in this free masterclass. It goes through everything you need to know to get your joints back to being strong, resilient, and pain-free — no matter how fragile they are right now. To discover these secrets for yourself, click the link before it expires to claim access to your free joint health masterclass right now. Thank you.

dr ryan shelton of zenith labsIf you liked this video/article, do share it with your friends and loved ones. Subscribe to the Youtube channel for weekly tips on new tools and techniques to improve your health and well-being.

I believe in the original meaning of the word doctor, ‘docere’, which means teacher. I’m here to help educate you on how to take care of yourself in ways that you may not have heard of before, but that are effective. I always want to hear your ideas and feedback so be sure to leave me comments below!




Boswellia for Joint Pain

Boswellia for Joint Pain

Joint pain is an inevitable part of everyday life for millions of Americans. Whether it is due to overuse of the joints, or simply age related wear and tear or autoimmune disorder, for those who suffer from it, joint pain can be debilitating and often non-repairable due to the nature of the tissues involved.

Because the tissue of the joints, like cartilage, ligaments, and tendons, all of which are tissues that usually cannot be healed or regrown naturally, joint damage is not only permanent without intervention, but can be extremely painful. Bones begin to grind together without cartilage on the ends, resulting in loads of pain and eventually, permanent damage to the bone.

The leading cause of joint pain is arthritis, which comes in many different variations. Among the leading types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, a type of arthritis that occurs when flexible tissue at the ends of bones wears down, and rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disorder affecting many joints, including those in the hands and feet.

Between these two types of arthritis, millions of people are suffering with swollen, tender, and painful joints in America, and because these conditions are so common, researchers are naturally constantly looking for better ways to treat them.


Among the newest treatments for joint pain, at least to Western medicine, is Boswellia, more commonly known as Indian frankincense. This biblical plant has a long history of medicinal use throughout Southeast Asia. Aside from wise men handing it out as gifts, frankincense has been used as an anti-inflammatory agent, astringent, disinfectant, digestive aid, diuretic, and an expectorant traditionally. Indian frankincense grows in the mountainous regions of the Middle East, and as the name implies, is related to the tree that produces frankincense.

To procure Indian frankincense, harvesters slice the bark of the Boswellia serrata tree and allow the resin to leak. It is collected in special bamboo baskets and allowed to cure, then graded and separated by color and shape.

Indian frankincense

The resin contains numerous active compounds including the fatty acids palmitic, stearic, oleic, and linoleic, as well as sugars such as glucose, arabinose, rhamnose, galactose, fructose, glucuronic acid, and idose. The gum resin also contains triterpene alcohol, serratol, and triterpenoids. The volatile oil contains p-cymene, d-limonene, terpinolene, bornyl acetates, and methylchavicol.

Researchers, constantly on the lookout for new treatments for common ailments, have conducted exhaustive studies on Boswellia for many disorders, including arthritis and its resulting joint pain and swelling.

A study published in Minerva Medica tested the efficacy of a standardized Boswellia extract called FlexiQule to mitigate the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Researchers provided the Boswellia extract to participants with symptomatic knee arthritis for four weeks, measuring progress via the Karnofsky scale (the Karnofsky Performance Scale Index allows patients to be classified as to their functional impairment. This can be used to compare effectiveness of different therapies and to assess the prognosis in individual patients. The lower the Karnofsky score, the worse the survival for most serious illnesses), Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Arthritis Index (WOMAC), and a treadmill test.

At the end of the four week study, those receiving the Boswellia extract noted improvements on all three measurement scales, and even more improvements when combined with the standard management regimen common for arthritis.

Researchers noted that effects for those receiving Boswellia extract were “significantly higher” than the control group receiving only standardized management, and in addition, “The WOMAC Score was decreased significantly more in the supplement group in comparison with controls considering pain, stiffness and physical functions. Social/emotional functions improved better with the supplement. Both groups improved their walking distance at 4 weeks.”

In regard to side effects, Boswellia is very well received, and has a long history of having little to zero side effects. Having been used for centuries in Eastern medicinal systems like Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine in India, Boswellia is trusted by medical professionals across the regions as well as the people who use it to treat a multitude of symptoms, including inflammation and joint pain, especially that which is caused by inflammatory diseases like arthritis.

Another study published in Molecular Medicine Reports expounds on the safety of Boswellia, and its efficacy when coupled with other drugs used to treat joint ailments, reporting that “BSE was well tolerated by the subjects except for minor gastrointestinal ADRs. BSE is recommended in the patients of osteoarthritis of the knee with possible therapeutic use in other arthritis.”


This is why Boswellia performs so well for arthritis specifically. The hallmark of arthritis is inflammation in the joint, which eventually leads to swelling and long term joint damage, harming the tissues that allow the joint to function properly. Because it helps so well to reduce inflammation in the joint, Boswellia is able to reduce the swelling, reduce pain, and reduce the damage that would otherwise be taking place due to arthritis.

The same study also evaluated the efficacy, safety and tolerability of Boswellia serrata Extract (BSE) in 30 patients suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee.

For this study, 15 participants received Boswellia serrata extract, and the other half placebo. At the conclusion of the study, 8 weeks, researchers found that “All patients receiving drug treatment reported decrease in knee pain, increased knee flexion and increased walking distance. The frequency of swelling in the knee joint was decreased.”

It’s easy to think of the medicine we see every day in television commercials and magazine advertisements as being the best that medicine has to offer, but this simply is not true. Many of the most revolutionary treatments for our most pervasive illnesses are repurposed or rediscovered remedies long used in Eastern medicine.

Many of the medicines we rely on in America simply treat the symptoms, and neglect to address the cause of the ailment. In addition, many of these medications are very harmful to our bodies, often causing more damage than they relieve. This is a major factor in the resurgence of traditional remedies, and will continue to influence our medicines as we progress towards safer and more effective treatments.

Considering Surgery for Back Pain? Ask These Questions First

We have all experienced back pain to some degree. Maybe you strained a muscle lifting something heavy or perhaps you’re just sore from a tough workout. In cases like this, back pain may be unpleasant, but it is also short-lived. For some people, however, back pain is chronic and debilitating.

According to the American Chiropractic Association, as many as 31 million Americans suffer lower back pain at any given time, and it is the single leading cause of disability around the world. Additionally, back pain is one of the most commonly cited reasons for missed work and the second most common reason for doctor’s visits.

Back pain is difficult to treat because the back is a complicated structure of bones, joints, muscles, and ligaments with many potential causes. If you’ve been experiencing back pain for a significant period of time and nothing else has worked, you might be considering surgery. Before you agree to go under the knife, however, you should make sure you fully understand the choice you are making – ask yourself these questions to make sure surgery is the best option.

What Causes Chronic Back Pain?

Because the back is such a complex structure composed of myriad muscles and ligaments, bones and joints, there are many things that go wrong. Back pain can be caused by something as simple as a strained muscle or ligament, maybe even a muscle spasm. These things can be triggered by lifting something that is too heavy, lifting with improper form, or moving in an awkward or abrupt way. Fortunately, these causes for back pain often resolve on their own with time and with rest.

More serious causes for back pain are often related to structural problems affecting the spine itself. Ruptured or bulging disks, for example, can put excess pressure on nerves in the pine, causing back pain that can be moderate and chronic or sharp and shooting. Sciatica is caused by a bulging or herniated disk in the spine pressing on a nerve, and it causes a sharp, shooting pain that travels down the spine through the buttock and down the leg.

Some of the more long-term causes for back pain include various forms of arthritis and other spinal issues like scoliosis. Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine and, depending on the degree of curvature, it can cause mild to moderate or even intense pain on a daily basis. Arthritis is another chronic condition that can contribute to back pain and it is often also present in the hips, knees, and hands. In some cases, it can even lead to spinal stenosis, a condition in which the space around the spinal cord narrows.

Aside from medical conditions, there are also some risk factors which may make you more likely to develop lower back pain. Some of these risk factors include the following:


  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Pregnancy
  • A stressful job
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Advanced age
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Smoking
  • Strenuous exercise
  • Strenuous physical work


Because there are so many potential causes for back pain, diagnosis is often a complex process. It starts with a physical exam and a review of symptoms but may also include additional tests such as x-rays, MRI or CT scans, bone scans, and even electromyography. In some cases, further examination by a chiropractor may be warranted or at least consulted when it comes to determining the best course of treatment for the problem.

Questions to Ask Before Back Surgery

Treatments vary for the different causes of back pain. In many cases, pain can be managed with over-the-counter painkillers or prescription medications, but these treatments may not address the underlying issue. In more chronic cases, physical therapy may help to correct problems with the spine, muscles, or ligaments and cognitive behavioral therapy can help you learn coping mechanisms for dealing with chronic pain and mitigating its impact on your quality of life.

In rare cases, surgery may be the best option to correct the underlying problem causing your back pain. It is important to understand that back pain is only an option in certain cases – problems that might be resolved with surgery include the following:

  • Herniated disk
  • Spinal fracture
  • Infection in the spine
  • Tumor in the spine
  • Spinal instability
  • Loss of feeling in the legs
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

In cases where back surgery is warranted, there are several different options which include discectomy, percutaneous discectomy, laminectomy (for spinal stenosis), kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty, and spinal fusion. Like all surgery, these procedures come with serious risks, so you need to make sure you fully understand the procedure, the risks, and the recovery before you go under the knife. To ensure that you are fully cognizant of what you are agreeing to, ask your surgeon the following questions:

  1. Have you correctly identified the cause of my pain? Before you agree to go under the knife, you had better be sure that your doctor has correctly identified the problem – nothing is worse than an unnecessary surgery. Make sure your doctor has performed the necessary tests to diagnose your problem and then move to the next question.
  2. Is the cause of my pain treatable with surgery? Once you’ve identified the cause of your pain, you need to ask whether it is treatable with surgery. If your issue is a problem with the ligaments or muscles, surgery will not help – surgery is most helpful for infections, spinal instability, and structural or nerve issues.
  3. What are the chances of success with this type of surgery? There are no guarantees when it comes to back surgery, even if you are otherwise healthy and your surgeon is supremely qualified. Make sure you understand the risks completely and decide whether you are really willing to take them or not.
  4. How many of these surgeries have you performed? All surgeons go through a lengthy education but, like anything in life, practice makes perfect. If you aren’t absolutely sure that your surgeon is qualified to perform the procedure, ask for another surgeon.
  5. What are the prognosis and recovery like for this type of surgery? Surgery is incredibly invasive, and your body is going to need time to recover. During that recovery period, you should expect to experience some pain and there is a risk for post-surgical infection. Ask your surgeon about the recovery for this type of procedure to make sure you can handle it and that you will be able to take the necessary steps to ensure a healthy recovery.
  6. Are there any nonsurgical options available? This question may be the most important of them all because you do not want to put your body through the stress of surgery unless absolutely necessary. Ask your doctor about alternative therapies and consider doing some research of your own about natural remedies. You’ll have to decide for yourself if it is worth dealing with a little bit of daily pain to avoid the risks of surgery.

In addition to asking these questions, you should also ask your surgeon about getting a second opinion. Every medical professional has his or her own way of approaching problems, and some surgeons are more aggressive than others. Even if your second opinion makes the same recommendation, you will have peace of mind in knowing that you made the right choice.

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