The simple long-term solution for neck and back pain – is a lot simpler than you think!
As a neurosurgeon at my practice in Beverly Hills and an associate surgeon at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, I specialize in treating patients who suffer from back and neck injuries and disease. Often, the treatments lead to spinal surgery with artificial disc replacement and spinal fusion among the most common outcomes.
Surgery is not always necessary nor is it always recommended. Maybe the bigger surprise is to hear this surgeon say that he would prefer NOT to operate on you.
After twenty plus years of practice, I have discovered that for most patients, the best answer is a non-surgical treatment that offers full painless movement of your entire spine – without the pain, hassle, and expense of surgery. The caveat, of course, is that it all depends on how much damage there is from disease (e.g., degenerative disc or other systemic problem).
My work involves more than surgery. I spend lots of time with my patients assessing what I call the four dimensions of health – the 4D Health process. The process itself involves four wellness activators: nutrition, fitness, disease screening, and possible pharmacological treatments.
The 4D health process is built on an idea: working toward better wellness so that our entire body is better prepared and stronger. Initially, I thought of this process as a means to bring my surgical patients to a higher level of preparedness. A stronger patient is always in a better position to make a full recovery. Besides, the end goal is not to merely “get better” but to become “greater than better.”
As the program developed, something interesting happened. Some patients noticed that as they gained strength and their overall wellness improved, pain complaints from even multi-level disc compression subsided. In several cases, patients came out of the 4D process better than ever before. More important, the need for surgery was at least delayed if not completely abrogated.
That’s not to say that none of these patients needed surgery later. Eventually, many of them did. But in nearly all cases by the time surgery occurred, their bodies were stronger, and muscles were doing a better job of holding bones in place. The 4D process not only put patients in a better place before surgery, it also put them on the pathway to healing.
Your body, the furnace.
If you think of your body as a furnace, then it’s easy to see nutrition as the substance you need to keep the fires burning. You’ve heard the saying, “you are what you eat.” What you eat delivers minerals and nutrients that give your body its built-in ability to maintain health levels for efficient healing.
I tell my patients that wellness is 80% kitchen and 20% gym. Of course, I’m using the word “kitchen” figuratively. But the concept is extremely important for my patients who are enrolled in this process. Nutritional intake is where wellness begins.
First on the list are foods that we should avoid. Any foods that have multi-ingredients, such as breads, muffins, bagels, pastries, cereal, and so on, should be curtailed or stopped completely. You also want to stop intake of baked goods that have yeast, sugar, mold, and gluten as ingredients. While you’re at it, you might as well add on your “DON’T” list any packaged diet foods that advertise low or no fat and low or no sugar. These will do more harm than good.
On the “DO” list, we want to drink plenty of water. The general rule is that you should be drinking between one-half ounce to one full ounce of water per each pound you weigh, per day. Therefore, if you weigh 150 pounds, your daily target for water is about 10 to 19 cups. You want to add fruits and vegetables to your diet – which kinds and quantity depend greatly on your objectives and body type.
You’ll also want to consider proteins. How much protein will you need? It depends on your lean body mass and other factors. A general rule is that your body needs about one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. For most people, that about 30 to 70 grams of protein a day, which is best when spread out over the entire the day, not all at once. If you’re aggressively exercising or competing, or if you are pregnant (or lactating), the daily protein requirement could be 25 to 50% higher.
Although the 4D process may include some supplementation, it is never a replacement for a well-balanced nutritional program. We also don’t rely on sports drinks (with vitamins) that are high in sodium and sugar. Most of these drinks contain caffeine and tons of sugar (which should also be avoided) which can trigger digestive discomfort and ultimately lead to more eating as you fight off fatigue.
The consequence of aging is that as we live longer. We strive to be more active even as our bodies begin to slow us down. As we age, we aim for a quality of life that is often greater than what our parents achieved. Naturally, we think about our spine a lot, especially when we have neck and back pain. The spine is the center of motion, balance, and functionality. Surgery can help solve some problems, but I believe we can do much better when we think of fundamentals to help our bodies function at their best.
Here’s to your wellness.