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Overloading the spine

It’s a good idea to change one’s lifestyle

People often ask me what is causing their backache. Often I can’t answer that question. Contrary to, say, bone fractures, backaches don’t just happen; rather, they develop over the course of years. However, with some patients, the question is easily answered. Just imagine that your spine is holding up the greater part of your body, much like a hat stand has to hold a certain number of coats. If you look at it that way, you’ll understand that the condition of the rest of your body matters a great deal to your back.

If your body is light and the muscle tissue surrounding the spine is in good condition, your spine is not being overloaded. Your muscles will help keep up your body. But if your muscles are untrained and weak and if there are a lot of very heavy coats hanging from your hat stand, your spine will have a hard time bearing the load. Excess weight places a heavy burden on all joints in the body, including the many joints that make up the spine. After all, the spine is basically just a stack of vertebrae that are held together at the back by small joints.

Some people think I’m too strict, but I regularly advise patients who are obese (BMI >32) to change their lifestyle before I will operate on them. Many patients find this a hard pill to swallow. On the other hand, doctors sometimes have to be the big stick the patient has needed for years.

A practical example

For instance, a while ago I was consulted by a patient who weighed about 150 kg. He suffered unbearable backache and wanted to go under the knife as soon as possible. Of course, I could have performed surgery on him the very next week, without giving much thought to his chances of recovery after the procedure. However, I feel that a good doctor must take an interest in the patient’s overall health. I’d be a superficial doctor, and I wouldn’t really enjoy my work, if I didn’t try to really improve my patients’ health, as opposed to simply curing them of this one problem.

As diplomatically as possible, I tried to explain to this patient that his lifestyle was greatly affecting the condition of his back. Thankfully, he realised at once that I meant well, so he patiently listened to the advice I was giving him with regard to nutrition and exercise. In the months following our first meeting at the outpatient clinic, he courageously took my advice and persevered with it. The next time I saw him, he was a different person. He’d had a hard time, but he was fit, incredibly proud of himself and he’d lost several dozens of kilos. In addition, his backache had become much less severe, exactly as I’d hoped all along. I didn’t even have to perform surgery on him any more.

There’s irony for you – sometimes we surgeons are the most satisfied with the operations we did not have to perform. Mutual respect, mutual listening and taking responsibility for a proper solution together – these are the things that can make a doctor-patient relationship truly special.

Surgery manual

Dr. Schröder is happy to inform you about the surgical treatment of your neck or back condition. He also discusses the possible complications of the procedure with you.

After you've carefully weighed up the pros and cons of the surgery, you can decide for yourself whether you consider your condition serious enough to operate.

View the surgery manual

  • Instructions for after you have left the clinic

    Once you leave the clinic:

    • Make sure that someone comes and picks you up in a car, and refrain from driving yourself
    • Make sure that you recline your car seat
    • Make sure that you are not home alone for the first few days following the operation
    • Allow the wound to heal for the first 2 to 3 weeks
    • You are allowed to shower, as the nurses will give you a waterproof plaster to cover your wound before you leave the clinic
    • You must not drive for 3 weeks, but you will be allowed to sit in the passenger seat while someone else drives you around
    • You are allowed to do whatever you feel up to, as long as you keep listening to your body and stop doing whatever it is you are doing whenever your body tells you to stop

    Your doctor, nurse and/or physiotherapist will provide you with more information on how to look after yourself following the operation.

  • How long will I have to stay at the clinic?

    Depends on the nature of the operation

    The duration of your stay with us will depend on your situation and on the type of surgery you are undergoing. If everything goes according to plan, and if you are undergoing a minor back or neck operation, you will only have to stay with us for one night. If you are undergoing major surgery, such as a spinal instability operation, you will generally have to spend a few nights at our clinics.

  • Swelling after surgery

    Swelling reduced after 2 to 3 months

    After the operation, your wound will swell, which may be painless but may also be a little uncomfortable due to your skin being pulled so taut. Generally speaking, the swelling will subside of its own accord within 2 to 3 months of the operation, and the skin will grow less thick.

  • Medication after surgery

    Following the operation, you will be given painkillers for as long as you need them. You will receive these painkillers in accordance with a set schedule. It is vital that you take your medication at the scheduled times, even when you are not experiencing any pain. In this way, your body will build up a steady level of analgesia.

    Most people will be able to stop taking painkillers a few days after undergoing back or neck surgery. If your painkillers somehow fail to provide you with a sufficient level of relief, we recommend that you notify a nurse as soon as possible. If you were on morphine-like medication prior to your operation, we advise that you gradually cut down on your medication after the operation, if your level of pain allows you to do so, in consultation with your GP. Acute withdrawal may result in adverse events.

  • Post-operative pain

    If you are experiencing an excessive amount of pain, you will receive additional painkillers

    The level of post-operative pain differs from person to person, and from operation to operation. Generally speaking, major lengthy operations will prove more painful than brief minor operations. At our clinics, all patients receive proper painkillers following surgery, as a result of which very few of our patients ever experience a great deal of pain. In consultation with yourself, we will determine your pain score, both at the ward and once you are home (we will call you to discuss this with you). If your pain score is too high, you will be given additional painkillers.

100% insurance covery

Nearly all treatments performed by Dr Schröder are covered by health insurance. This is true for the following conditions: neck hernia, spinal hernia, lumbar spinal stenosis and cervical spinal stenosis.

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Dr Schröder's blog

Dr Schröder regularly publishes new articles on his blog. Read all about spinal hernia, neck hernia, spinal stenosis, neurosurgery and other related subjects.

View all blog posts

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  • 12. Dozing off

  • 11. The Big Spinal Quiz for the articulate patient

  • 10. Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson

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