Most Back Pain Could Be Cured Without Surgery Or Drugs
If you're suffering from back pain and unable to find relief, it may be because the real cause of your pain -- weak, stressed and damaged muscles, not your spine -- has never been recognized or treated, says Norman Marcus, M.D., one of the nation's leading pain specialists.
Back pain is the most disabling pain experienced by Americans, and, according to the National Institutes of Health, eight out of ten people will suffer from it at some point. "With nearly one million spine surgeries performed in the U.S. each year, and a failure rate as high as 50 percent, too many patients either undergo spinal surgery that is doomed to fail, or are put on mind-altering drugs to manage, but not end, their pain," says Dr. Marcus.
"The reality is that muscles are the primary source of chronic back pain. And muscle pain can almost always be successfully treated without surgery or drugs," says Dr. Marcus, the founder of the Norman Marcus Pain Institute, which is dedicated to eliminating pain, not just attempting to manage it.
Dr. Marcus, a past president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, is Clinical Associate Professor in Anesthesiology and Psychiatry and Director of Muscle Pain Research at the NYU School of Medicine. He co-founded New York City's first pain center, at Montefiore Hospital, and developed and served as Chief of the Pain Treatment Service in the departments of Medicine and Psychiatry at New York's Lenox Hill Hospital for fourteen years.
Dr. Marcus's pioneering protocols for diagnosing and treating muscle-related pain have brought back pain relief to thousands of long-suffering patients, many of whom had given up hope.
Muscles represent more than 50 percent of the body by weight, but are rarely even considered as the source of pain in such common problems as low back pain, neck pain and headaches, says Dr. Marcus, who has found muscle involvement in over 75 percent of his chronic back pain patients.
Dr. Marcus credits his conversion from helping patients live with their pain to actually curing them to Dr. Hans Kraus, the legendary physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist. Dr. Kraus, whose muscle-strengthening exercises and trigger point injections eliminated most of President John F. Kennedy's crippling back pain, is recognized as the father of sports medicine in America and was the driving force behind the President's Council on Physical Fitness.
Dr. Kraus developed landmark tests that evaluate muscle strength and flexibility and a series of simple exercises to correct muscle weakness and stiffness, which led to the largest and most successful back treatment program ever conducted. 300,000 people participated and 80 percent of those surveyed reported either the complete elimination of back pain or considerable relief. The results were even better for those who had undergone back surgery.
For five years, starting when he was 85 years old, Dr. Kraus spent ten hours every Tuesday ("Tuesdays with Hans") with Dr. Marcus and his pain patients at Lenox Hill Hospital.
He taught Dr. Marcus how to diagnose the four causes of muscle pain: tension, deficiency (weakness and or stiffness), spasm, and trigger points. And he showed him how to cure his patients' pain through a program of exercises and, when hardened knots (trigger points) were present, with muscle-softening injections.
"My patients' pain relief was so great, at first I found it hard to believe," says Dr. Marcus. "Seventeen years later, thanks to Hans Kraus, I continue to see it daily."
Working with the Stevens Institute of Technology, Dr. Marcus has developed a compact muscle pain detection instrument that can identify a muscle that is causing pain in any area of the body, from low back pain to shoulder pain, neck pain and headaches. Dr. Marcus believes that the device, which can be used by any doctor, could help to avoid countless failed surgeries and other treatments that prolong pain and suffering.
Dr. Marcus says surgery may be appropriate in some cases and he has prescribed it for some of his patients. But he cautions chronic back pain sufferers to be wary of surgery for pain because so many don't need it and will undergo the ordeal of surgery, only to find that the pain remains. In fact, he says, for some patients, surgery actually increases their pain.
"The really good news," says Dr. Marcus, "is that most back pain can be significantly reduced and very often eliminated -- if only more doctors started looking for pain in all the right places."