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    The Truth About Back Surgery

    So What Does Help? continued...

    Going Holistic
    Multidisciplinary programs teach everything from rigorous exercise to meditation — and have impressive success rates. At the Texas Back Institute's CoPE (Conquering Pain Effectively) program, for example, patients boost their mobility 50 percent, on average, while cutting their pain in half and their painkiller use by 75 percent. When Theresa Hesse of Mesquite, TX, went to CoPE in 2006, she was relying on strong painkillers in order to stay involved in family activities with her two kids. "I'm emotional and loving and busy, but I was just going through the motions," says Hesse, who'd had three failed back surgeries. The CoPE program is intense — 40 hours a week for four to six weeks; in the supervised setting, Hesse was able to work hard rebuilding strength she'd lost from years of protecting her back. Participants are also taught biofeedback, meditation, and other techniques to deal with pain and the depression and anxiety that often accompany it. Today, says Hesse, "I still have to use some pain medication — things are pretty messed up in my back — but I can live my life."

    If you're interested in going to a pain program, look for one certified by CARF (the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities). Most programs are covered (at least in part) by health insurance.

    Increasingly, people are turning to pain centers sooner rather than later, say specialists from Texas Back Institute and Dartmouth's Spine Center. Based on their experiences with patients all along the spectrum, they've pinpointed strategies to help keep sufferers with an acute back problem from developing a chronic one:

    Limit Narcotics
    Unlike anti-inflammatories, the commonly used Percocet, Vicodin, OxyContin, and other opioids don't help heal your back. And they can be addictive.

    Get Help
    if you're emotionally down. Depression makes pain worse.

    Set Goals
    Tell your health team what you want to be able to do — go to work, drive — so you can make a plan.

    Stay Active
    When you're on bed rest, your family can begin to see you as the "sick person," which can be hard to reverse. It's also not great for your body (you lose muscle tone) or mind (you get depressed).

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