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To be or not to be surgically repaired: This Rolfer’s thoughts on choosing surgery

The second most impassioned speech I ever heard came from my doctor who was at the side of my gurney, 1979. It seemed that surgery was necessary, and I was not buying it.
Mind you, this was not an orthopedic problem, I had practically bled out on the gurney. I saw the light, had the surgery, and went on to tell the tale.

THIS TALK OF OPERATIONS “TO BE OR NOT TO BE” HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH LIFESAVING OPERATIONS, and a good idea is to listen to your doctor on these types of issues, and all other medical issues.

The first most impassioned talk I ever heard was when I helped a friend to take in her breast cancer treatment options by going to take notes. When my friend was questioning the option of radiation for herself, the doctor popped out a stack of studies a foot high and said, “Outcomes are all in here, do you want to be in the 98% cure rate or do you want to be in the 38% cure rate!” I can tell you, we were both impressed.

There is nothing like this mountain of information on favorable outcomes available for orthopedic events. A colleague recently reminded all of us Rolfers™ of a New England Journal Medicine report quoted in a book called, “How We Decide”.

“In a 1994 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a group
of researchers imaged the spinal regions of ninety-eight people who had no
back pain or back-related problems. The pictures were then sent to doctors
who didn’t know that the patients weren’t in pain. The result was shocking:
the doctors reported that two-thirds of these normal patients exhibited
“serious problems” such as bulging, protruding, or herniated discs. In 38
percent of these patients, the MRI revealed multiple damaged discs. Nearly
90 percent of these patients exhibited some form of “disc degeneration.”
These structural abnormalities are often used to justify surgery, and yet
nobody would advocate surgery for people without pain. The study concluded
that, in most cases, “the discovery by MRI of bulges or protrusions in
people with low back pain may be coincidental.” How We Decide by Jonah
Lehrer, Page 162-163

“Forget about your MRI. What it’s showing you is probably not important.”
~Dr. Sean Mackey, Professor of at Stanford School of Medicine and associate
director of the hospital’s pain-management division. Lehrer again: Page 163

All this and subsequent studies of this idea have led to a massive, “Wait and See” which is standard practice now for orthopedic events. “Take this pain killer, go home, and wait and see.” Rolfers excel after this period is over in balancing the issues which have created the problem.

Then we might have some diagnostics of a more expensive kind, like these MRI’s. SOMETIMES they show something good, i.e. what is going on of a medical treatment nature. One of my first steps in working with someone who has certain types of dread problems that have been so far untreated/diagnosed (all in your head, haha) by the doctors who have been consulted, is to say, CAN WE KNOW MORE? and send them to a rehabilitation M.D., hopefully one who knows the value of conservative therapies such as Rolfing® Structural Integration. It is really good if the rehabilitation M.D. also practices some form of treatment possibility like acupuncture or herbalism or even a yoga practice, they know more about the body than the average. If nothing else, at least we know they have an open mind.

If nothing operable shows in diagnostics by a competent M.D., that situation is the Rolfer’s bread and butter, we excel in that area of balancing, pain relief, ease of movement. We bring the person into balance, all the while taking good care of their special situation including the summation of forces that is creating the issues. We have a good record with that.

HOWEVER, let’s say you are definitely in an operation category. You have the chewed up and macerated disc situation going on, your legs are dragging, you have intense pain, maybe you have lost control of your bowels or bladder, maybe one foot is dropping, there is a big danger of permanent nerve damage. (Just like we read on the internet, lol.) It is clear from diagnostic tests and opinion of Qualified Medical Professionals that the disc is the main issue, and QMP’s opinion is that you should have surgery. (Board certified is my minimum standard for qualification.)

Is there any non-surgical alternative? Yes, there may be, though this is not a common solution that I am going to tell here, in that the length of time is quite different. Many doctors would say rest for a week. However, this 6 week out-of-gravity rest has worked FOR SOME PEOPLE WHO CAN DO IT.

The first time I discovered this 6 week method was
in the ’80s when a chiropractor showed up in my office. She had managed to recover from a work-related disc ripping about a year earlier, and was coming in to get herself balanced up overall through soft tissue means, and to handle some other aches and pains.

She looked pretty decent though unbalanced when she showed up for me, but the year before she had suffered an extensive herniated disc (Lumbar 5th to Sacral 1st), one where her legs were dragging and there was definitely possibility of permanent nerve damage.
She did not want to have the back surgery, as she had numerous people show up in her practice with scar tissue which created other problems, often in the next spinal segment to the operated one.

She fixed it like this:
She went to bed. She stayed there for 6 weeks. She had a bedpan. She did not get up for ANYTHING. No being in gravity except lying down. No sitting. She did have her chiro friends come in and “adjust” by non-force methods. At the end of the time she could feel that things were much better, and she got up and tried it out, walking to the bathroom. She gradually came back.
After 12 weeks she went back to work, and then a year later she showed up in my office, wanting to have better soft tissue balance, have the struts balanced up.

From time to time I have told this 6-week-rest method to folks. Usually they say, “Really? the surgery is faster!”

Surgery: not really faster. The surgical recovery period is pretty long and arduous and with good medical help has a lot of physical therapy. Sometimes after recovery people come in and get balanced, because they don’t want that problem of the next segment getting herniated. Then, I’m like, “If your doctor says, OK, then fine.”  The spot of the operation may not be worked on much at all, but the rest of the body will be balanced so that it will not drag on the site of the operation.

Another user example of the 6 week method: recently a client who lives right near me called with an emergency. He had hurt himself working out and couldn’t get to my office, would I come over and fix him? The answer was “Yes, I will come” and “Maybe I will fix you” and then it turned out to be “Nope, no fix” upon a closer look.

What I told him was, “you are in a serious situation, you should see a doctor”, and I gave him a couple of names. He asked, what can I do besides surgery, if the doctor says I need it? I told him about the six week method, and showed him the ways to help himself while lying around. And, I said, surgical methods these days are pretty good, I would personally have surgery if I thought that I needed it.

Fast forward to six months later, when he came in with another workout problem. I said, “What happened about that back stuff, did you have surgery?”
He said, “I got the diagnosis, I did what you said about lying there for 6 weeks, and now I am fine.”

I would love it if someone would do a double blind study including the 6 week method, but I guess it is probably not going to happen.

Someone put their surgery on youtube:

You need a strong stomach for this, though the comments are great.

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