When is Back Surgery Necessary?
If you’re experiencing back pain, you may find that it can begin to take a huge toll on your quality of life and generally can be a burden on your day to day routine. While most back pain issues can be treated with less invasive solutions, back surgery is sometimes the best option to deal with more serious and severe back pain. You may be wondering when exactly back surgery is necessary and if there are any alternate options available besides surgery. In the following we will discuss some important things to consider when contemplating your back pain treatment options.
If you’ve been experiencing back pain for a while, it’s begun to inhibit your daily routines and you find that your current treatment is not improving your situation, seeking alternate options is recommended. But how far should you go with these alternate treatments? Should you start with smaller, less involved treatments? If surgery does become the recommended option, how can you prepare for back surgery?
Putting it simply, back surgery should be considered as a realistic option only after less invasive treatments are not reducing your back pain and the pain itself is becoming debilitating and remains persistent. More specifically, back surgery can be used to treat conditions such as herniated or ruptured disks, Spinal Stenosis (narrowing of the spinal column causing excess pressure on the spine and nerves), Spondylolisthesis (one or more bones in the spine slip out of place), vertebral fractures, or Degenerative Disk Disease. Regardless of the condition you’re experiencing, your first step should always be to seek out the advice from a specialist. Even after getting a recommendation for surgery, you should go for a second and even a third if you feel it’s necessary. Sometimes, surgery will be ruled out by these second or third opinions and other, less invasive treatment options can be recommended.
Generally there will be two types of surgeons that perform back surgery, neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons. The type of surgery you need for your specific ailment as well as what condition you’re experiencing will determine which of the two performs your back surgery. A Neurosurgeon will have completed 5 to 6 years of residency and deal with ailments involving the brain, spine and spinal cord, nerves, and Intracranial and Intraspinal Vascular conditions. An orthopedic surgeon will have completed a 5-year surgical residency that focuses on musculoskeletal conditions. They primarily focus on bone and joint conditions that involve the spine, arthritis, sports injuries, trauma, bone tumors, and join replacements.
Back surgery is inherently an invasive procedure. Compared to other surgeries, it can come with higher risks due to the fact that it’s so close to our nervous system. So, to put it simply, back surgery can be dangerous. Even with a successful surgery, the recovery time-frame is typically a long one and some can require months of healing. Another risk factor involved with back surgery is the propensity for second surgeries. This is because back surgery is a procedure that will alter the spine and its mechanics and can possibly speed up the degenerative tendencies that are inevitable with our backs. This is why surgery is usually looked at as a last resort option for patients.
If you do find you need surgery, do research on the surgeon performing the procedure and make sure they have plenty of experience with your specific surgery. Interview and question several doctors and specialists before deciding on a specific surgeon to perform your surgery. When you’ve had your surgery scheduled there are some things you may want to keep in mind before the procedure day comes. Keep as active as you can with your condition, you don’t want to immobilize yourself leading up to your surgery. By remaining healthy and active you can position yourself with a quick and more effective recovery process after surgery. Don’t expect the surgery to be the end all for your back pain. Specifically working on and maintaining your core strength can go a long way in keeping your back healthy and pain free.
Post back surgery can involve some pain, sometimes to high degree. Speaking with a specialist about managing this pain is recommended for post-surgery healing. Talk about what types of pain medications and pain relief methods you can utilize while going through your recovery process. The time-frame for your recovery will depend on the procedure that you had done to your back. Typically however, you can expect your healing to take at least a couple of months, more if your surgery was more involved. Rest is an important factor in the recovery process, however you’ll want to be up and out of bed as soon as possible. Regaining your range of motion through physical therapy will most likely be recommended and even after PT sessions are completed you’ll want to make sure you’re up and moving every hour or so to maintain the improving range of motion.
Exercise is perhaps the most important factor in your post-surgery recovery process. As discussed previously, exercise will help you improve your range of motion, eliminate the fatigue you may feel post surgery and it will decrease the risk of re-injury. Typically after back surgery you will work with a physical therapist who will give you very specific exercises that you can perform to strengthen your back and get the recovery process going. These are exercises that they will walk you through during your sessions and prepare you well enough so that you can perform these while at home even after your time in session is complete.
Again, back surgery should be looked at as a last resort. There are risks factors involved with the procedure and often times the re are alternative treatment options for your pain. First and foremost, it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, remaining active and eating well. This will go a long way in preventing back pain in general as well as improving any existing back pain. Also, there are several options available in terms of injections, nerve stimulation, spinal manipulation, and acupuncture that can help remedy your back pain issues. Talk to specialists about these options and which would be the most effective route for you.
At Pinnacle Pain and Spine, we provide you with a highly trained and qualified team to walk you through the process of improving your back pain. We provide you with a second opinion program and give you access to our pain management team so you can be sure that you have your options covered when determining the best route for your back-treatment plan. Dealing with back pain can be stressful and the information out there is not always forthcoming. Pinnacle Pain and Spine strives to ease this stress and give you all of the information you need to properly treat any pain that you may be experiencing.