You know the symptoms: tight muscles, stiffness, or pain in your legs. That’s right, we’re talking about back pain. As the number- one reason for missing work each year, back pain represents a significant health concern for many people. Meanwhile it seems that spine surgery has become increasingly commonplace—but do all those people really need surgery, or would other treatments work? Here, we look at some of the most prevalent misconceptions about back surgery,
- Surgery is the only treatment option. In most cases, non-invasive options like stretching and exercise; over-the-counter medication; physical therapy; or therapeutic massage can be used to relieve back pain. When these treatments are ineffective, your doctor will further evaluate your condition to determine what your next steps will be. Like any surgical procedure, spine surgery has its own risks, so doctors generally save it for patients whose condition fails to respond to other treatment—and can actually be remedied with surgery.
- Surgery is a cure-all, offering relief from any back condition. Surgery is an option when the bones of the spine have encroached on the nerves, or when the discs between the vertebrae have worn down and the bones rub together. However, for muscle-based injuries (which account for the majority of back pain cases), surgery is not a treatment option. For these kinds of injuries, exercise, stretching, massage, and physical therapy are appropriate.
- Recovery from back surgery is extremely lengthy. Recovery time depends on the procedure that’s done—and the overall health of the patient before surgery. Many back surgeries are now minimally invasive, so recovery time is significantly shorter. Talk to your doctor about minimally invasive surgery techniques and what you can expect after surgery.
- An orthopedic surgeon is the best person to perform my spine surgery. Although the spine is made up of bones, it also houses the spinal cord, which is the most important nerve in your body. That’s why it’s important to choose a surgeon with extensive experience in spinal surgery. Look for a neurosurgeon who specializes in these procedures. If you’re not sure where to start, we can give you a referral to a specialist in the Sanford area.
- After the surgery, I won’t be able to participate in my favorite activities. While you won’t be back on the trails immediately after surgery, you will likely be able to participate in sports and other physical activity once you recover. Note that some procedures, such as spinal fusion, may cause some loss of flexibility. Discuss your activity level with your doctor before surgery, to get a good idea of what you can expect from your body afterward.
- Outpatient clinics are a safe alternative to hospitals. Many “laser spine surgery” clinics have popped up, promising fast and easy back surgery. Generally these centers offer elective surgeries for a limited spectrum of procedures, so they’re not the best choice for patients who really need complicated procedures. Meanwhile, if a complication does occur, it’s important to be in a hospital, where the medical personnel are trained—and equipped—to deliver the necessary care.
- It doesn’t matter which hospital I go to for spine surgery. If you’re looking to treat back pain, take some time to research hospitals in your area. Select one where your doctor of choice has surgical privileges, but go deeper and find out if the hospital specializes in treating back pain. That can be a benefit if you need specialized follow-up care, such as physical therapy.
If you have questions about back pain and treatment options, please contact us at Central Florida Regional Hospital. Serving Seminole and West Volusia Counties, we specialize in spine care. Call 1-800-445-3392 to get answers to your questions and schedule a personal consultation.