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Causes of backache

It is often unclear what causes backache

The lower back consists of various structures, e.g. vertebrae (bone), muscles, connective tissue, tendons, nerves and joints. All these structures can be damaged or degenerate.

Abnormalities in these various tissues may cause discomfort and symptoms, either singlehandedly or in tandem with other abnormalities. Depending on the severity of these abnormalities, a person may experience severe or less severe backache. Therefore, treating backache can be quite complicated, since it is often unclear what exactly causes backache.

The ageing spine

Ageing of the spine is a natural process that everyone who is growing older will experience to some extent. Why some people suffer backache while others don’t is largely determined by a congenital predisposition. In other words, it is embedded in our DNA. Some people grow bald at age 30, whereas others have backs that age faster than other people’s. What we do know is that certain external factors may negatively impact the rate at which the spine ages.

Smoking makes your spine age faster

Smoking is such a factor. The harmful agents that are absorbed into a smoker’s body not only put smokers at an increased risk of suffering cardiovascular disease or lung cancer, but also render a smoker’s bones softer. In addition, smokers’ bones regrow more slowly after a fracture, and their regrowth tends to be of a lower quality.

Increased risk of complications when undergoing surgery

Smoker patients who must undergo surgery to have their vertebrae fused (spinal instability surgery) are at an increased risk of complications, due to the fact that their bones will not heal quite as well after the operation.

Such patients can significantly increase their chances of a proper recovery following spinal instability surgery. You see, it has been demonstrated that quitting smoking considerably improves the quality of a patient’s bones. If a patient of mine is a candidate for spinal fusion, which involves fixating the lower back at a certain point, I will require him or her to quit smoking first, as this will increase his or her chances of a successful operation. There are other advantages to quitting smoking, as well. If a patient who smokes 20 cigarettes a day quits smoking, s/he will save almost €2,200 a year!

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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

  • 13. On coincidence, bad luck and science

  • 12. Dozing off

  • 11. The Big Spinal Quiz for the articulate patient

  • 10. Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson

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