Back Pain? Heal Thyself Says Vijay Vad

As the Unites States struggles with an epidemic of opioid addiction that can often start with a prescription for back pain, the treatment of it is being reconsidered by doctors. Turns out that only 5% of people with back conditions actually need surgery; however, M.R.I.’s are routinely performed and frequently yield misleading results.

Dr. Vijay Vad, a sports medicine specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery and professor at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, has developed what he calls a “home system” for back care that focuses on being active, happy and mindful. Author of Back Rx and Arthritis Rx, he started a foundation dedicated to two causes: supporting medical research on back pain and arthritis, and funding education for disadvantaged girls worldwide. Kathleen Kraft sat down with him recently to learn about more about how we can heal our backs.

Kathleen Kraft: What types of surgeries do you want people to avoid having and why?

Vijay Vad: Surgery for back pain alone without any leg pain is a dicey proposition. The

success rates are low. We have the largest number of failed back syndromes in the world, in other words: chronic, lifelong, severe pain despite spinal fusion. The same is true of those with back pain who have an underlying depression; if their depression is not recognized, the success rate is low.

KK: What role does yoga specifically play in healing?