As a leading cause of lower back pain, and the most common medical complaint in the United States, disc herniation can have a negative impact on productivity. Employees suffering from back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders account for approximately $50 billion in lost productivity annually in the U.S. However, successful lumbar discectomy surgery can have a positive impact on productivity, according to recent research.
The purpose of the Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial was to determine if workers who had lumbar discectomy surgery were more productive than those choosing to live with the condition without surgery. The study found that employees with disc problems missed an average of 10 days of work per year. However, those that had surgery missed 3 to 4 days of work each year, a figure that can easily add up to a significant productivity boost if applied nationwide.
Study participants who had a lumbar discectomy also noticed a boost in their earnings due to an increased ability to work, with those who had the surgery earning about $2,000 more than those who opted for non-surgical spine therapies. The ability to increase earnings also added to the overall cost-effectiveness of the surgery.
While the potential to boost earnings does provide an incentive to opt for surgery to correct a problem disc, it shouldn’t be the determining factor when patients are weighing their options. Surgery, even for something as common as a herniated disc, is still a last resort if traditional remedies fail to provide substantial or lasting relief. Back pain is highly subjective. If a patient has success with a non-surgical treatment, they are just as likely to be able to return to work without too many missed days as someone who had surgery. Such treatments often include:
• Physical therapy • Chiropractic manipulation • Ice and heat therapy • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) • Narcotic pain medications
When patients do choose surgery for their herniated disc, there are newer, less-invasive options worth considering. Microdiscectomy surgery is becoming an increasingly common preference to treat disc herniation that causes leg pain (sciatica). Even traditional spinal fusions and spinal decompression procedures can be performed using less invasive techniques with smaller incisions and special tools. While there is no guarantee of success with surgery, patients who are well informed about their choices are more likely to make a decision that’s right for their needs.
If you are living with chronic back pain that is disrupting you ability to perform routine activities and are seeking viable treatment options, reach out to The Spine Institute Center in Beverly Hills at (310) 828-7757. We offer in-person consultations with board-certified spine specialists who can help you understand your options for long-term pain relief.