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Osteopathy – An Alternative to Surgery?

23 November 2011 No Comment

So I’ve posted on this before, maybe even a couple of times. Do the findings on a medical scan (CT, MRI) really mean much? Maybe I always post about this because I myself am a bit dubious, but the research is really starting to support the idea. I suppose I started in on this because I didn’t always see people getting fantastic results after surgery and if the surgeon is looking at a scan and telling you your pain is coming from something he sees in the scan, and then he surgically alters that, well, shouldn’t you get a fantastic result? The answer they would give you is that pain is more complicated than that, and wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly my point in the beginning. Pain is complex, musculo-skeletal conditions are complex, and surgery is a slightly too simple approach, if you know what I mean. Surgery is an extremely fine, detailed skill set. But at the end of the day, all it is is cutting something out. Or fusing something. In other words, it’s quite specific to a thing, maybe a tendon, or a bone, or a ligament.

I’m not against surgery, it can be nothing short of life saving. And there are plenty of instances when it really is the only option. But there are plenty of times when it doesn’t work, and that’s probably more to do with the fact that it was never going to be the cure for that particular problem than it being a poor surgeon (although that can happen). Too often a surgeon sees something on a scan and thinks that it is the source of the person’s pain, and so they do the very best thing that they can to help which is a surgery. What I keep wondering is whether the things they see on a scan is as important as they think it is.

The New York Times has seemingly been on a bit of a mission lately to look into this too (great minds think alike), which is great because it saves me from having to do all the work. The latest article, published October 28, 2011, lists undoubtedly the biggest results so far. Other articles have usually listed statistics in the range of 50-70%, but this one was much higher.

According to the study, “31 perfectly healthy professional baseball pitchers” had their shoulders scanned. The results: “the M.R.I.’s found abnormal shoulder cartilage in 90 percent of them and abnormal rotator cuff tendons in 87 percent”. So, according to conventional procedure, 87-90% of them were eligible for an operation, that is, 27 or 28 of the 31. And yet they were performing at a professional level, with no pain, no symptoms. In the researchers words “scans almost always find something abnormal, although most abnormalities are of no consequence.”

As I’ve said before, it’s just something you should consider before going under the knife. Surgery is a big deal, it’s expensive, the recovery is arduous, and there’s some serious risks involved, so unless you need it, look at the alternatives.

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/v9253H

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