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Do Chiropractors and Spine Surgeons Want the Same Thing for their Patients?

Chiropractor holding model spineIn some cases of severe spinal degeneration or disc herniation, spinal surgeons remove the damaged or bulging disc, fill the opening with bone, and fuse the spine back together with hardware. Sounds intense, doesn’t it?

A couple of questions come to mind right away.

Why did the spine degenerate or why did the disc herniate in the first place?

This is of critical importance. We should remember that the spinal discs degenerate due to uneven loading over time. This uneven loading is caused by poor alignment and resultant faulty biomechanics or movement in the spine. Removing the offending disc and fusing the spine into “stability” may temporarily relieve pain, but spinal fusion may put that person at higher risk of further spinal problems above and below the fusion site.

Does the surgeon care about spine alignment when they perform the fusion?

A study published in the journal “Neurosurgery” in 2011 showed that maintaining a healthy neck curve during fusion surgery resulted in better outcomes for the patient. This means that if the surgeon attempted to fuse the spine closer to an ideal curved shape, the patient would have better results in terms of reduction of symptoms, pain, or dysfunction. Another study stated that an increase in neck curve of 3 degrees closer to normal was considered a good outcome during fusion surgery.

NOTE: 3-degree improvements in neck alignment are seen regularly in our office! In fact, 3 degrees may be considered a “small” improvement since we can see changes closer to 10, 12, 15, or even 20 degrees! And these improvements are achieved without scalpels, hardware, and the risks that come with spine surgery.

So, it seems that spine surgeons are getting savvier to the fact that a healthy neck curve is essential for better results after surgery. Chiropractors have been saying this for years … a healthy neck alignment is a foundational element of good spine and nerve system health, and therefore important for our overall wellbeing and longevity. You can feel great knowing that every time you do your spinal corrective exercises, you are working towards that outcome!

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