Doctors at the AIIMS have managed to cure critical cases of chronic back pain where surgery was claimed to be the only treatment, by just using physiotherapy.

“With help from physiotherapy, we have been able to avoid surgery for patients with lower back pain and sciatica who were advised surgery,” Dr. P. Sarat Chandra, Associate Professor, Neurosurgery, AIIMS said.

“After giving them closely supervised physiotherapy, only three of the 45 patients involved in a study went in for surgery. The condition of the rest of them improved and they had near complete relief from pain,” he said.

Lower back pain is one of the most common complains and disabling spinal problem in 70 to 80 per cent of the adults.

The commonest cause of low back pain is wear and tear in the lower vertebrae.

The pain can spread to the buttocks, thigh, and may radiate into the foot and toe. The sciatic nerve is the most commonly affected nerve, causing symptoms of sciatica. This happens due to general wear and tear, due to jobs that require constant sitting and especially those which require lifting.

“The usual mode of treatment is medication, physiotherapy and finally when there is no relief patient is advised surgery,” an orthopaedic with the AIIMS said.

The study was conducted in 45 patients in the age group of 18-35 years. All were advised surgery. Some were manual labourers and others were into desk jobs.

“Majority of them had a wrong notion that medicines cure the disease and physiotherapy is only an added treatment and does not affect the disease process. But little did they realise that most of the medicines are pain-killers,” Dr. Chandra said.

He said that physiotherapy works as it strengthens the back muscles and prevents progression of the disease.

“Ninety five percent of the patients showed improvement. Surgery should only be considered as a last resort after all treatments have been tried. It has been found even after surgery there is not much relief from the pain,” he said.

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