It is eight in the morning. I am sitting in the office getting ready for my patients. I have been a neurosurgeon for 20 years, and strangely, I am excited about seeing a number of new patients this morning. I have always come to work with enthusiasm. I learned long ago that satisfaction in my job arises from a deliberate effort — to find something interesting and unique in each patient. It is easy to fall into a habitual sense of boredom and this deliberate effort has paid dividends in terms of satisfaction over the years. In many ways it serves as a paradigm for life. I can trace the roots of this technique back to my days in elementary school where I would stare at the clock in with the hope of speeding up the hands until I realized that the hands would only gain speed when I focused my effort on trying to find something interesting in the lecture.
My patient this morning comes to me with back pain. He wants to know why he has back pain. Although I have dedicated my career to elucidating and pinpointing the pain generator and then recommending the best treatment, he will assuredly be disappointed to learn that I am definitively successful in this endeavor only in the minority of cases.
I explain that I can always make a good and educated guess, however. In this case, we will decide together on a treatment. We will combine my knowledge of back pain with his knowledge of his own body. This will be a dialog — one that may evolve over time — depending on how the initial treatments go. We will focus on creating back health rather than trying to eliminate his back pain.
This is the first of many blogs about back pain. These will hopefully provide meaningful content to you (the back pain sufferer). Some of the blogs will start with “From behind the desk . . . ” and they will describe my perspective (as a surgeon) as I look across my desk at you. I hope that this allows you to learn and consider a different perspective — one that empowers you with knowledge and, as importantly, one that enables you to better navigate the current broken medical system in your quest for better back health and less back pain. Other topics will be about patient empowerment in more general terms or about life itself!
Since I have a daytime job, I want this site to be about what my job isn’t. I can speculate, philosophize, and take risks. Most of all, I want to offer you the unique perspective of a surgeon without a scalpel in hand.