New Procedure Effective Against Lower Back Pain
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This procedure is only suitable for certain patients, the authors emphasize. It is not suitable if there is an extruded, or displaced, disk pressing on a nerve, or when disk heights have decreased. To get such good results, you need doctors with lots of experience in discography. "The two physicians who did these procedures were highly skilled 'needle jockeys,'" says Karasek. "They were very good at placing the needle in the disc and understanding the images they saw."
"This is valuable research, particularly since lower back pain is one of the most common causes of time lost from work," Miles Day, MD, tells WebMD. "Neurosurgery is expensive and time consuming, and cannot guarantee successful results. This new procedure is not a panacea or silver bullet, but it is a valuable tool." Day is a pain specialist at Texas Tech Medical Center's International Pain Institute and an assistant professor of pain medicine and anesthesiology at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock.
The procedure itself takes only about an hour, under local anesthesia, Day says. Patients should not expect immediate improvement. For the first two weeks after the procedure, the pain may even be worse, because the disk needs time to heal. But over the next several months, the pain should gradually lessen. "I would never say to a patient, 'this will fix all your pain'. I would tell them they may see 25% or 50% improvement," Day says.
Dennis Doherty, DO, agrees. "If it were my back or my wife's back or my mother's back, I would try this procedure, particularly if the only alternative is [major surgery]." Doherty is medical director of the Shepard Pain Center and associate clinical professor of anesthesia and pain management at Emory University School of Medicine, both in Atlanta.