David Hanscom headshot informal2 4-1-2018

Dr. Hanscom is an orthopedic complex spinal deformity surgeon who was based in Seattle, WA. He retired in 2018 after 32 years in practice. Today, his mission is to re-introduce true healing into medicine. He feels that doctors should be given the time to listen and understand their patients. Life situations surrounding their medical problems have a tremendous impact on care and outcomes.

He was part of a movement that began in the 1980’s that espoused that persistent low back pain was best solved with surgery. However, he happened to combine forces with several national-level rehabilitation physicians early in his career and quickly noticed that patients were having better outcomes when surgery was combined with a thoughtful rehab approach. When the data came out in 1993 that the success rate for a fusion for LBP was less than 30% at two-year follow up, he immediately stopped performing the procedure. In the meantime, he descended into his own deep 15-year pit of suffering from severe chronic pain. It began with a panic attack and he eventually developed 17 different symptoms. He had no idea what hit him, and no one could explain what had happened.

During this period, he spent four years in Sun Valley, ID as primary care spine surgeon. He was able to observe the onset of chronic back pain from the beginning. Since he wasn’t performing fusions for pain, he tried multiple different approaches and gradually the treatment paradigm emerged that is presented in the two editions or his  book, Back in Control: A Surgeon’s Roadmap Out of Chronic Pain. He began to witness patients improving that he thought had no hope and his 17 symptoms also resolved. Over the next 15 years, he watched hundreds of patients not only become free of pain but thrive at a level that they had never experienced. Even patients who had surgical problems cancelled their surgery because the pain resolved, which is the foundational force behind his third book, Do You Really Need Spine Surgery? Take Control with a Surgeon’s Advice.

In spite of overwhelming data that has revealed the answers to chronic pain, the medical culture has become more aggressive in performing interventions that have repeatedly documented to be ineffective, expensive and risky. The consequences are brutal both at a societal and individual level. This ever powerful juggernaut of ineffective spine surgery caused him to quit his practice to pursue educating the public and providers about the dangers of current situation and also of the consistently effective solutions.

His efforts include:

  • Do You Really Need Spine Surgery? Take Control with a Surgeon’s Advice was released in the Fall of 2019. All factors affecting the outcome are considered and presented in an organized treatment grid. Maintaining his website, backincontrol.com which is the action plan of his book, Back in Control  and Do You Really Need Spine Surgery? The self-directed rehab program is called, “The DOC Process” (Direct your Own Care) and guidance regarding surgical decision-making is also on this site.
  • Weekly blogs updating the DOC concepts.
  • Weekly instructional podcasts, “Back in Control Radio”.
  • Pending books include:
    • Healing Your Family’s Pain
    • Breaking through Anxiety
    • Enjoying Helping Your Patients Out of Pain
    • Awake at the Wound: Applying Athletic Performance Principles to Surgery

Helping patients heal from chronic pain has evolved into the most rewarding phase of his long surgical career

View Dr. Hanscom’s CV


MD, Loma Linda University, 1979

Internal Medicine Residency, Spokane, WA, 1979-80

Orthopedic Surgery Residency, University of Hawaii, 1981-84

Orthopedic Trauma Fellowship, U.C. Davis, Sacramento, CA, 1984

Spinal Deformity Fellowship, Twin Cities Scoliosis Center, Minneapolis, MN, 1986


  • Orthopedic spine surgeon, Seattle Neuroscience Specialists with Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, WA
  • Orthopedic consultant for Premera (Blue Cross/LifeWise of WA, OR, AK) 2006 – 2015
  • Co-director of the Swedish Neuroscience Specialists spine fellowship, Seattle, WA
  • 2019 chairman of the non-operative care committee for the Scoliosis Research Society

Professional Activities

  • Founder and current president of the Puget Sound Spine Spine Society – a non-profit educational group providing an educational spine forum to optimize spine care
  • Co-founder of “Awake at the Wound” – a program teaching athletic performance principles to surgeons. He co-founded the program in 2006 with performance coach David Elaimy
  • Founder and Medical Director, Swedish Hospital Spine Registry – 1991-1998
  • Co-chair of the Swedish Surgical Optimization Project – 2015 – present
  • Author of Back in Control: A Surgeon’s Roadmap Out of Chronic Pain, 2nd edition. Vertus Press, 2016
  • Keynote speaker
    • Oregon Physical Therapy Association annual meeting, Portland, OR, Sept 2017
    • Southern Pain Society annual meeting, New Orleans, LA, Oct 2016
    • ARPA conference, Melbourne, Australia, August 2016


  • Best Doctors of America – 2007 – 2018
  • Top Doctors – 2018
  • Alpha Omega Alpha – Loma Linda University – 1979

Outside interests

  • Golf, tennis, weight training, bird watching, writing poetry, reading, ping pong, snow skiing, and grandparenting

Media Contact

David Hanscom