The Aging Athlete and Back Problems – The Degenerative Disk

If one has a back problem and the back problem is specific for certain disc and certain vertebra due to instability, degenerative disc disease, arthritic facet joints, spinal stenosis or any combination of the above then these problems can be resolved with a great deal of predictability towards success. This of course does not mean that everyone needs surgery and certainly means that all conservative measures must be attempted including exercise, weight loss, flexibility, strengthening and stretching.

Magnetic resonance imaging, myelograms coupled with computerized axial tomography, disco grams and bracing are adjuncts to make a clear decision as to whether surgery will help or not. This area is understood poorly by many physicians because of the advances that have occurred. As with any good medical procedure there are always controversies that can occur. Surgery is not to be taken lightly and all the consequences should be discussed thoroughly with the patient and his or her physician. Risks and complications need to be discussed at length. Limitations of patients after surgery, as well as the prolonged rehabilitation and the immobilization necessary to ensure the surgical success should all be discussed too.

Due to the advances that have occurred in the last ten years, people who have had previous
surgery on their back that was unsuccessful are also candidates, through evaluation for repeat surgery. Repeat surgery has been shown recently to be just as good as a first operation as long as the diagnosis is specific, and as long as the parameters are correct, regarding the health of the patient. I think the predictability of the surgery is most important these days as none of us have a lot of time to waste trying to get better. Second opinions are also strongly suggested from competent spine surgeons and who understand the surgical procedures that need to be done. Many people ask “will my back be stiffer afterwards?” I have no answer of course, yes, but I think the overall performance and the ability of the patient will be improved as the pain will be eliminated with a surgical procedure. There is always a trade off in regards to this.

This is a very exciting time for physicians, spine surgeons, and patients, because we have a clearer understanding of that which needs to be done. We have better diagnostic procedures, and tools to fix them. Statistically our success rates are greater in those selected patients that have had the proper diagnostic procedures instituted. – Copyright 1995

For more information, please contact:

Dr. John C. Nordt
Spine Center of Miami
TEL: (305) 662-2851