Spine surgery carries risks for any patient—when an operation is performed near the spinal cord and the nerves that branch off it, there is a risk of damage being done to them. This can occur during surgery, from swelling or inflammation afterwards, or when scarring forms. These risks are part of the reason surgery is often considered the last resort for treating back pain or stenosis. For diabetic patients, however, the risks that come with back surgery are even greater.
When patients undergo surgery, the stress of the procedure itself and the effects of anesthesia can result in elevated blood sugar, even in patients who haven’t been previously diagnosed with diabetes. For those who already struggle to maintain healthy levels of blood glucose, the potential for blood sugar complications after surgery are much higher.
Understanding How Surgery Affects Blood Sugar
Surgery, plus the changes to diet, lifestyle, and exercise that can occur before and after a procedure, can all cause dramatic changes to glucose levels. Studies show that the risk of this occurring for diabetic patients is higher than for the general population. While it isn’t always clear exactly why this happens, the stress hormone cortisol and neurotransmitters called catecholamines that are released into the bloodstream in response to stress can increase due to the physical trauma of surgery. These can produce increased insulin resistance—a situation in which the body becomes less sensitive to insulin. More and more insulin is then required to remove glucose from the blood.
High levels of insulin that are often seen in Type 2 diabetes can also make arteries and veins less flexible. This restricts blood flow throughout the body, impacting the heart and other organs, and slows down healing time.
High Blood Sugar Levels and Post-Surgical Recovery
High blood sugar after surgery is a problem because even slightly elevated levels can delay healing and increase the risk of developing an infection—your chances jump from 2% to almost 18% if blood glucose is high. The risk becomes proportionally higher as blood sugar levels increase. Diabetes is known to interfere with the proper function of the immune system, which in conjunction with circulation problems, makes it harder to heal quickly and fully from a surgical incision.
In addition to these issues, high glucose levels after surgery can cause heart and/or lung problems, kidney issues, neurological complications, fluid and electrolyte imbalances, stroke, or death following surgery. All these potential negative outcomes mean that diabetics must have their glucose levels carefully monitored as they recover.
Treating Back Pain without Surgery
Nobody approaches the idea of undergoing back surgery lightly, but when back pain progresses to the point where it interferes with daily activity, it may come to seem like the only option. For example, when spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal, compresses the spinal cord or the nerves branching off it, the pain, numbness, tingling, cramping, or weakness in the limbs that results can start off mild but become unbearable and constant as the condition gets progressively worse. If medication or other traditional conservative medical treatments fail to provide relief, surgery to remove bone spurs, widen the space between vertebrae, or fuse vertebrae together may be suggested to stop the pain. For someone with diabetes who has reached that point, the question becomes—is the possible benefit worth the serious risks associated with spinal surgery?
The answer is that there is an alternative that can treat stenosis without the need for surgery. At Divine Spine, Dr. Sawhney has been able to help patients with stenosis recover with the gentle, precise chiropractic technique his practice is known for. Unlike traditional chiropractic adjustments that subject the spine to jarring movements, popping, and twisting, our computerized method delivers small, guided adjustments that restore motion to the joints in the spine without added discomfort. Our patients receive effective treatment that maximizes safety and comfort while alleviating the pain, tingling, loss of sensation, and weakness that accompany conditions like stenosis.
Putting Your Health First
For patients with diabetes and other conditions that can make surgery a riskier proposition, fear of serious complications can keep them living with back pain far longer than they should. Divine Spine can provide a safer alternative that provides lasting relief and improved health. We start with a comprehensive exam, including on-site X-rays, to determine the source of your pain and create an individualized treatment plan designed specifically for your needs. To learn more about your nonsurgical options for treating stenosis, contact Divine Spine here to schedule your initial consultation.