Q& A

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - HEALTH MATTERS -

BI have re­cently been di­ag­nosed with bulging discs and have been ad­vised that, after an MRI, I may need surgery. I know I don’t have the fi­nal de­tails yet but I was won­der­ing if I could get your opin­ion on whether or not back surgery is a good idea. I have a low level of pain a lot of the time, and I would take parac­eta­mol and ibupro­fen to­gether about a week out of every month. A few peo­ple have men­tioned to me that back surgery should be avoided at all costs.

What is your ex­pe­ri­ence of pa­tients who have had sim­i­lar surgery? ack pain is a com­mon rea­son for many peo­ple to go to their GP. Thank­fully in the ma­jor­ity of cases are due to acute strain, the pain eases over days to weeks and no chronic dam­age has oc­curred. The pain it­self can be quite se­vere mak­ing sim­ple things like turn­ing, dress­ing or sneez­ing very painful and dif­fi­cult. A com­mon cause of back pain is sim­ple mus­cu­lar strain and of­ten you may not be aware when this oc­curred. Other causes of back pain can be bulging or rup­tured in­ter­ver­te­bral discs, arthri­tis, bony ab­nor­mal­i­ties or con­di­tions such as os­teo­poro­sis.

Pain may be felt in the lower back or ra­di­ate into the but­tocks, hips or down the legs. You may no­tice numb­ness, pins and nee­dles or sharp shoot­ing pains if there is any pres­sure. You may also have re­duced flex­i­bil­ity in your back and sim­ple things like try­ing to put on socks or shoes can be ex­cru­ci­at­ing or near im­pos­si­ble. Weak­ness in the legs that gets worse over time, in­con­ti­nence of urine or bowel mo­tions or fever with back pain may in­di­cate more se­vere dam­age and th­ese symp­toms re­quire ur­gent med­i­cal at­ten­tion.

Sim­ple back strain is usu­ally treated with a com­bi­na­tion of painkillers and phys­io­ther­apy ses­sions and x-rays or scans are not usu­ally nec­es­sary. If your pain has be­come pro­longed or seems to be get­ting worse over time then it is well worth fol­low­ing up with your doc­tor again.

Chronic pain is pain that has per­sisted for more than 12 weeks. Back pain oc­curs most com­monly in those aged 30 to 50 and oc­curs equally in men and women. Lead­ing a seden­tary life­style, be­ing obese, poor pos­ture or heavy lift­ing makes back pain more likely. If pain or dis­abil­ity is pro­longed fur­ther tests may be nec­es­sary. X-rays will looks at the bones of the back but the bet­ter test is an MRI scan which can also look at the discs nerves and tis­sue sur­round­ing the spine. If

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