We can debate the necessity of spine surgery until the proverbial cows come home, but a few concerning realities are becoming apparent: it’s performed far too frequently and it doesn’t mean your pain will go away. In terms of the latter point, a recent study in the peer-reviewed journal Painfound that patients who took prescription opioid pain meds before undergoing lumbar (lower back) fusion surgery was overwhelmingly likely to continue opioid use long-term following surgery.

Among nearly 2,500 adult patients who underwent fusion surgery, almost half used opioids long-term (at least four prescriptions filled in seven months) prior to surgery. Among those presurgical users, a whopping 77 percent continued use long-term following surgery, while 14 percent continued use on a periodic basis. Only 9 percent discontinued opioid use or used them postsurgically for only a short period of time. Of the 77 percent who continued long-term use, 45 percent actually had their dosage increased following surgery. And to top it all off, 13 percent of patients who did not use opioids before surgery became long-term users after the procedure.

So, is spine surgery failing to take away the pain, or is opioid use a hard habit to break? Both probably deserve equal blame. That’s why nondrug, nonsurgical options – such as chiropractic care – for back pain are landing front and center in the healthcare conversation. If you’re experiencing back pain, schedule a visit with a doctor of chiropractic as your first provider choice. Why? Because research suggests back pain patients who see a chiropractor first are far less likely to undergo spine surgery compared to patients whose first contact is with a spine surgeon. Less chance of surgery, less chance of addictive pain medication; now that’s a win-win for your health.