January 9, 2018

Should you talk to an orthopedic doctor about back surgery?

Neck, Back and Spine

This post is part of The Ultimate Guide to Back Pain Relief

Have you tried physical therapy and massage to release tension and decompress your spine? Check. Worked to strengthen your core and boost flexibility? Check. Back braces, reduced activity and heat/ice? Check. Tried medications and injections? Check. Improved your diet? Lost weight? Stopped smoking? Exercised regularly? Check, check, check and check.

When your chronic or recurrent back pain doesn’t improve despite noninvasive therapies and lifestyle changes, it’s time to think about exploring additional options, such as back surgery. You don’t have to live with the back pain, no matter its cause, be it from an injury, herniated disc, pinched nerve, scoliosis or sciatica. There are options for relief.

Typically, after determining the diagnosis, back pain treatment begins with the help of non-operative pain management physicians who pinpoint what is wrong and construct a plan involving noninvasive options help your body heal naturally over time. And, if your pain persists and those treatments are not enough, they will act quickly and thoughtfully.

Take, for example, OrthoIndy’s non-operative pain management physicians. They work in the same clinic as the spine surgeons, and it’s not uncommon for them to walk down the hall and knock of the doors of their colleagues to discuss possible next steps, like back surgery. It’s all about exploring appropriate options to lessen suffering and improve quality of life during each stage of your treatment.

Signs that it’s time to consider back surgery

You don’t need to live with chronic back pain. If you are suffering from any of these conditions or symptoms, please speak with your Orthopedic doctor:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Tingling and numbness in your arms and/or legs
  • Bladder and/or bowel incontinence
  • Trouble walking and/or using your hands
  • Bone spurs on your spine
  • A herniated disk that isn’t getting better
  • Broken vertebrae
  • Stenosis

Your first back surgery consultation

Should I be nervous? It’s a common question Orthopedic doctors hear when discussing back surgery with patients suffering from unrelenting back pain. “If you’re not a little nervous, I would be worried,” says Dr. Kevin O’Neill, OrthoIndy spine surgeon. “It is a surgery after all. Though it can be scary, it helps to learn more about the surgery. We always make sure to address all of our patient’s concerns.”

In most cases, there is no need to rush into back surgery. There is a good chance your back will heal itself with a proper non-surgical plan that includes physical therapy. If you are a good candidate for back surgery, your nonsurgical spine physician will discuss it with you and set up a consultation with a spine surgeon.

“During the first consultation we verify the diagnosis and explain the procedure,” explains Dr. O’Neill. “We take the time to walk the patient through the entire operation. We try to meet and talk with everyone that is going to be involved, even the caregiver to make sure everyone is on the same page. Several people have to say yes before a complicated surgery moves forward.”

Pros and cons of back surgery

Maybe you’ve had back surgery in the past and the results were less than expected. It is still worth talking to another provider. That was OrthoIndy patient Marlene Shafer’s situation. Her back was causing her so much pain that she was unable to stand up straight. She had a few back surgeries at another practice, but they brought no relief. She thought there were no other options for her and that the pain was just something she was going to have to live with. This wasn’t true for Marlene, and it isn’t true for you. No one has to live with back pain. Learn more about how we helped Marlene.

Surgical emergencies

Surgical emergencies for back pain are extremely rare but they do occur. If you are experiencing a loss in bowel and/or bladder control or developing progressive weakness in the legs, these symptoms constitute a medical emergency and require immediate surgery. Please make an appointment with a spine surgeon right away.

Exploring surgical options for severe back pain

Surgery is never your only option for treating back pain. As counterintuitive as it may seem, good spine surgeons will always suggest that you try viable, less invasive alternatives before proposing back surgery.

OrthoIndy surgeons do not recommend surgery unless the expected benefits outweigh the potential risks. Make an appointment to talk with an expert to learn more or download our comprehensive reference guide for detailed information on the pros and cons of having back surgery to relieve pain.

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The Ultimate Guide to Back Pain Relief cover

The Ultimate Guide to Back Pain Relief

Find out what's causing your back pain and how you can treat it with OrthoIndy's ultimate guide to healing back pain.

Read the guide

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