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Why Are “Useless” Surgeries Still So Prevalent?

Science shows that many surgeries offer no real benefits to patients, but they are still performed widely. A pain expert examines how we got to this place and what can be done instead.

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Pain and Anatomy Advisor

A recent article in the New York Times discusses that a number of surgeries for pain continue to be conducted even though more and more studies prove they’re ineffective. It’s an argument I have been making for years. But the question that the article does not ask that I think is paramount is this: How did we get to this place where we ignore empirical evidence and continue to perform these surgeries?

There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not dazzled by human ingenuity and what we accomplish because of our inquisitive minds. It’s those traits that lead to our incessant innovations, but in the medical field, it’s those innovations that have, in part, led us to where we are performing these useless surgeries. With cat scans and MRIs and other tools, we are able to see things we’d not been able to see before. We can see the herniated disc, the torn meniscus, the damaged vertebra. But the ability to see on such a microscopic level has led to a myopia in which we do not look past that source of pain. As a result, we treat that source of pain, but barring recent trauma, such as an accident, the source of the pain is never the source of the problem. And the latest research continues to pile on in confirmation.

Related: A Simple Daily Routine to Eliminate Knee Pain

Let me be clear: the problem is not the surgeons. They are doing a great job. With each surgery, they are doing exactly what they intend to do, and they are doing so with a rare and incredible skill. The problem is the surgeries themselves, which should never be performed. If the lower spine is damaged, it’s not because of dysfunction on the part of the lower spine. It’s because of a misaligned body that has adjusted the form and function of the spine, putting more demand on the lower spine than it was designed to withstand. Similarly, if a meniscus is torn, it’s not because the knee is malfunctioning. It’s because there is an imbalance elsewhere in the body that has led to a series of anatomical compromises that have put too much stress on the knee.

Again, when we see a symptom such as a ruptured disc, we’ve stopped asking why and are simply assuming the source and the cause of the pain are the same, which is why 99% of all tears or ruptures or similar maladies in our body are labeled idiopathic, which means no known cause. You will hear causes thrown rather casually about—it’s genetic, it’s aging, etc., but those are never said definitively or with conviction, and further investigation usually reduces them to the hollow explanations they are. One of my own favorites is that the pounding of jogging is causing that problem in the left knee. If that were true, why is it not causing the same problem in the right knee, which is running just as much as the left?

The Alternative to Surgery Most People Ignore

The body is an amazing machine. At the cellular level, it is in a constant state of birth, death, and renewal. Discs are alive. Cartilage is alive. We have lost our understanding of what a magnificent regenerative machine the body is, and if our meniscus or discs aren’t regenerating as they should, it’s not because they don’t want to, it’s because they can’t. In my experience, I have found they can’t because our body is out of balance, out of alignment, and when we restore our entire bodies to their proper alignment, those issues in the knees and lower back and everywhere else resolve themselves, making unnecessary any of those surgeries, which studies are confirming are useless anyway.

Related: Watch One Man’s Journey to Becoming Pain Free

Known as the Father of Postural Therapy, Pete Egoscue has helped relieve thousands of people from their chronic pain, including many of the world’s leading athletes. For more information on Pete and any of his 25 clinics worldwide, go to



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