Recently, I came across an interesting article written by Dr. David Hanscom. The title of this article is “Why I’m Leaving My Spine Surgery Practice”. As the treatment of pain, especially back pain, is the major part of my acupuncture practice, I read this article with interest.

Dr. Hanscom begins by describing his early years of medical practice, his motivation for resolving low back pain with the latest advances in lumbar fusion techniques, and how proud he was of successful lumbar fusion surgeries. He even admits to being disappointed when he found no reason to perform a lumbar fusion. Then, in 1993, a study was published evaluating the success rate of lumbar fusions between 15% and 25%. He decided at that time to stop practicing this type of intervention. Lumbar fusion is an invasive procedure that has high rates of complications both in the short term and in the long term.

Lumbar fusion surgery
Spinal fusion surgery involves joining two vertebrae so that they do not move relative to each other. Like any surgery, this procedure involves certain risks such as infection or damage to nerves or other adjacent structures.

As the two fused segments do not move, the stress on the adjacent vertebrae is greatly increased, which could lead to faster degeneration of the inter-vertebral discs and cause other problems in the medium or long term.

At the same time, he himself began to suffer from chronic pain. He went into burnout. He did not understand what was happening to him. He had become a top surgeon, a go-getter without fear, who did not know what stress or anxiety was. What he did not realize at the time was that his attitude towards professional success was motivated by the subconscious need to flee a difficult childhood. He had mastered the art of repressing anxiety.

Although he was very good at controlling his anxiety, his body suffered the effects. Anxiety, anger, fear and other strong emotions lead to the release of a large amount of stress hormones into your body. Sustaining these stress levels over a long period can result in a wide variety of physical symptoms.

Health problems that may develop or worsen as a result of chronic stress include:

  • cardiovascular diseases (high blood pressure and others)
  • gastrointestinal problems (gastro-oesophageal reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, etc.)
  • headaches (tension headaches, migraines)
  • anxiety and depression
  • obesity
  • accelerated aging, premature death.

Dr. Hanscom had fallen into the darkest period of his life. He suffered from migraines, tension headaches, skin rashes, severe anxiety in the form of an obsessive-compulsive disorder, burning sensation in the feet, PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome), tinnitus, back, neck and chest pains, insomnia, digestive problems and others.

More than a decade later, he began his healing journey after reading a book inviting him to write his thoughts in a structured way. For the first time in many years, he began to feel a decrease in his anxiety. In the following months, he discovered other treatment approaches and got rid of his pains. His other symptoms also disappeared.

Excited by his discoveries, he began to share what he discovered with his patients. Many have seen their condition improve. The first step is to take care of sleep. Then, medication management, education about what pain is, teaching stress management techniques, fitness and adopting a new perspective on life.

Modern Western medicine tends to compartmentalize the different systems of the human body and to make a clear distinction between psycho-emotional and physical aspects. In Chinese medicine, this compartmentalization does not exist and every aspect of the individual and his environment are seen as an inseparable whole.

My practice focuses on the treatment of pain and musculoskeletal injuries. On a daily basis, I treat a large number of patients for whom the solution is simple: an injury or a wrong movement, muscular tensions or other simple myofascial imbalances. However, when the pain is not relieved quickly or tends to reappear after the treatments, one must look further. Chinese medical theory gives all the tools to identify the causes and contributing factors of a pain, and often one must look to the side: the function of the internal organs, the management of the stress, lifestyle and others.