If you experience chronic, unrelenting back or neck pain, you’re not alone. Back pain that won’t go away despite conservative, non-operative treatments, is the most common type of chronic pain. Only one out of 10 people in the U.S. with chronic pain end up needing spine surgery, and the spine surgeons associated with Mather’s Back & Neck Pain Center operate on fewer than five percent of the patients the Center treats. However, if you’re tired of living with severe pain and nothing is helping, surgery may be the best option for you.
Deciding whether you want to get spinal surgery can be an intimidating decision. However, sometimes it’s necessary in cases where more conservative and non-invasive options have failed. These situations include:
- Intractable pain or pain that is constant, excruciating, unrelenting, and is resistant to all forms of non-surgical treatment
- Herniated or ruptured discs
- Spinal stenosis or the narrowing of the spinal canal that compresses the nerves and/or spinal cord
- Progressive numbness or weakness radiating into your arms or legs
- Foot or wrist drop, which is a severe weakness of the foot or wrist muscles affecting function
- Trouble walking or using your hands
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Spinal infection, fracture, or tumors in the spine
Spine surgery is typically performed by neurosurgeons or orthopedic surgeons. Traditional spine surgery options include:
- Laminectomy – the removal of part or all of the vertebral bone;
- Microdiscectomy – removal of a portion of the intervertebral disc, the herniated or protruding portion that is compressing a nerve; and,
- Fusion – surgery to permanently connect two or more vertebrae in the spine, eliminating motion between them.
However, not all spine surgeries are major surgeries. There are also minimally invasive spine surgery options which can be performed based on your problem and needs. Minimally invasive procedures are usually performed using percutaneous instruments, devices that can be placed in the spine through a small incision to treat your pain.
A good spine surgeon is a good communicator who is dedicated to listening and collaborating with you to meet your needs and provide you with the best outcome possible. If you are unsure if you need spine surgery or have been told you need spine surgery and want a second opinion, you should get one. Make sure you speak with your doctor about the best treatment and surgical options for you.
David J BenEliyahu, DC, FICC, DABPM, Administrative Director, Back & Neck Pain Center at Mather Hospital.