In 2007, a whopping 27 million Americans reported back problems and spent $30.3 billion on treatments. Studies show too that 90% of the population experience spine symptoms at least once during their lifetime. It seems back pain is close to a universal experience which partly explains why experts say 600,000 of us get back operations every year. That’s the population of Des Moines Iowa and sadly, many of those are people who never learned what tennis balls can do for back pain.
Some 594,000 of those annual operations should not be done according to Hubert L. Rosomoff, MD, who said, “Backs don’t fail. Doctors do.” Dr. Rosamoff, when he was medical director of the Comprehensive Pain and Rehabilitation Center at the University of Miami School of Medicine, called a moratorium on back surgeries after realizing that with two weeks of rehab, his back patients no longer required surgery. According to Dr. Rosomoff, the source of the pain in most cases is not from the spine
Some 594,000 of those annual operations should not be done according to Hubert L. Rosomoff, MD, who said, “Backs don’t fail. Doctors do.” Dr. Rosamoff, when he was medical director of the Comprehensive Pain and Rehabilitation Center at the University of Miami School of Medicine, called a moratorium on back surgeries after realizing that with two weeks of rehab, his back patients no longer required surgery. According to Dr. Rosomoff, the source of the pain in most cases is not from the spine and surrounding nerves but rather from the muscles, tendons and ligaments that support the anatomy, “Following this kind of concept you can eliminate 99 percent of the surgical cases. In fact, the incidence of surgery if one really looks at this appropriately is one in 500.” Doing the math, subtracting the 594,000 annual bad surgeries, leaves 6,000 good, legitimate back surgeries – that’s the population of Estherville Iowa, or any small town you’ve never heard of.
“The most complex type of back surgery has increased dramatically between 2002 and 2007, with a 15-fold increase,” says Richard Deyo, co-author of the 2010 study reporting that people are suffering as a result of general doctor and patient thinking that more medical care is always better. This increase in complex back surgery has occurred without any evidence that people suddenly started developing the spinal deformities that justify the complex surgeries. The groundless increase in complex back surgeries brings a corresponding increase in life-threatening complications like heart attack, stroke and pneumonia.
Why do some doctors do surgeries they shouldn’t? Researcher Richard Deyo thinks financial incentives play a role since the complex surgeries cost as much is 10 times more as the simple ones. Says Max Codman,
" I am an Orthopedic surgeon and professor with 30 years clinical experience, and medical director of 1200 MD managed care organization. ‘Simple’ back surgery costs total $8-15k, with 3-6k to the MD. ‘Complex’ costs up to $90k with up to 25k to the surgeon. Insurers will pay because MDs insist it’s “indicated.”
Why do patients go along with unnecessary, risky and expensive surgeries? This is one I can talk about from experience because my wife submitted to a $2,000 nonsense shockwave therapy for plantar fasciitis performed in a hospital with anesthesia. It’s simple – patients are desperate and lack information while the guy in the white coat is clearly the expert in the room. Don’t let this happen to you!
This almost happened to Deep Recovery fan Helga (her amazing full story here) who wrote in the comments:
My doctors were suggesting surgery to me within a few months of non-injury based soft tissue pain setting in. It made no sense! It took a long time until I found my solution with a simple Lacrosse ball and kid’s bouncy ball. I hope your Kickstarter effort pays off! How about Shark Tank? I think it would do really well there!
Only 26% of back surgery patients were able to return to work while 67% percent of patients with the same diagnosis who didn’t get surgery were able to return to work in a large study of workers’ compensation cases in Ohio. The study conclusion: “This Lumbar fusion for the diagnoses of disc degeneration, disc herniation, and/or radiculopathy in a Workers Compensation setting is associated with significant increase in disability, opiate use, prolonged work loss, and poor Return to Work status.”
What happens when patients follow their doctors’ recommendations to use NSAIDS like advil, Motrin, Aleve or Celebrex? Sometimes they end up in the hospital and sometimes they die. If you think I’m exaggerating here are the numbers from the Department of Medicine at Stanford University:
Conservative calculations estimate that approximately 107,000 patients are hospitalized annually for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)-related gastrointestinal (GI) complications and at least 16,500 NSAID-related deaths occur each year among arthritis patients alone. The figures for all NSAID users would be overwhelming, yet the scope of this problem is generally under-appreciated.
So what can save you from the horrors of a bad surgery or NSAID reliance? The humble tennis ball and anything else that restores the health of your muscles, tendons, and ligaments (as per Dr. Rosamoff) – in two words, physical therapy. A recent study covering 32,000 patients, published in Spine, documents this, showing that early treatment by a physical therapist for low back pain was associated with reduced risk of subsequent surgery, injections, physician visits, opioid use, and advanced imaging. The study also showed a corresponding reduction in overall lower back pain related medical costs relative to delayed treatment by a physical therapist.
So listen to what physical therapists, athletes and users with pain are saying about the Massage Track tools:
Dr. Lara Johnson, DPT (visit her website):
I’d definitely recommend the Massage Track tools to a friend – it’s a very simple technique to use, but highly effective. It’s something that can really assist, is portable and will last a long time. The videos are extremely helpful – I think they’re great in encouraging not just rolling, but working methodically through tissues and holding an area for a length of time.
What I like most about the tools are the angles of pressure you get which you just can’t do with the balls alone on the floor. Using the balls with the Massage Track, allows you to apply pressure from more than one angle simultaneously,which you can’t do on top of the ball by itself on the floor, because it will roll away.
I’d use these tools daily if possible – even 5 or 10 minutes a day on those areas that need it most, I found extremely helpful especially with my running.
Graziela Cooper, Boulder tai chi practitioner:
Before I got the massage track tools, I wasn’t really doing deep tissue work on myself. Whenever I felt I the need, I’d look for a professional. But I find it’s very helpful to have a tool we can use regularly to speed up the healing process.
I tend to wake up with a really stiff back and the Body Track is very good to help loosen up in the mornings. I love the simplicity and possibilities to change positions and pressure of the balls according to what I need and see myself using it every couple days.
Final note: I don’t have any ax to grind here – I know that a good surgeon is to be treasured. My father is one of those lucky few who needed and found a great back surgeon for his severe spinal stenosis. The surgery he had was life-changing. Sometimes in these rare cases, surgery is the only path to getting relief. Just make sure you know for sure which case you have!