Most people don’t make the decision to have back surgery lightly. It’s usually an option that’s explored when different forms of physical therapy, various medications, and other conservative treatments fail to provide sufficient relief. However, if you’re seriously considering having a spine-related procedure, here are five things you’ll want to think about before you make a final decision.
1. Spine Surgery Is Usually a Last Resort
Unless there’s an emergency situation, back surgery is meant to be a last resort, not simply another treatment option. The general recommendation for most patients with spine-related discomfort is to try 6–8 weeks or more of conservative care first. There are many non-surgical options that could help you sufficiently manage your pain before you consider back surgery. Some of these include:
- Physical therapy exercises
- Aqua therapy
- Changes in diet and exercise habits
- Chiropractic adjustments
- Direct injections into the affected area
2. It’s Perfectly Fine to Be Nervous
Even if you know friends or family members who are absolutely thrilled with the results from their procedures, it’s perfectly normal to have some degree of apprehension about your own back surgery. You may be able to achieve greater peace of mind if you schedule an appointment with the surgeon who will be performing your procedure ahead of time. Then you can ask questions and gather more information about the specific procedure that has been recommended for you. For instance, if the scheduled procedure is an extreme lateral interbody fusion, Santa Monica patients can do some research ahead of time so they know specific questions to ask.
3. Recovery Is a Two-Way Process
Resting in bed is fine for a few days after back surgery. However, you’ll have a more productive post-surgery recovery if you actively participate in the process, which means fully participating in your physical therapy sessions, not just going through the motions. Your recovery can also be more productive and beneficial if you take the following steps:
- Do approved forms of exercises between physical therapy sessions (e.g., low-impact aerobic activities like walking)
- Provide feedback so your recovery plan can be adjusted based on what’s working for you and what’s not
- Set reasonable and realistic goals for yourself
4. Back Surgery Isn’t Only for Older People
Some people dismiss the idea of even considering back surgery if they think they’re “too young” to have it. The fact is that spine-related procedures can benefit people of all ages, from teen athletes and individuals injured at play or on the job to middle-aged and older adults with degenerative conditions or preexisting abnormalities.
Even if spine surgery ends up not being recommended for you, it never hurts to at least schedule a consultation with a spine specialist to explore your options. Being proactive about your persistent or debilitating back pain is more likely to result in an accurate diagnosis, which can allow you to receive effective treatment sooner.
5. Back Surgery Doesn’t Have to Be a Solitary Experience
Spine surgery isn’t something you should go through alone. You may have more sources of support than you realize. If it’s decided that surgery is right for you, use the time leading up to your scheduled procedure to arrange for some assistance at home from family members, friends, and neighbors as you recover. Support can also include:
- Joining an online or in-person support group to help you through your recovery
- Getting encouragement from loved ones before and after your procedure
- Taking advantage of services that provide rides to and from medical appointments
Also, be aware that many spine-related procedures today are performed with minimally invasive techniques designed to improve patient safety and make recovery less of a burden. Lastly, remember that discussing back surgery doesn’t necessarily mean it will be the only option on the table for you.
Patients who would like the advice of a trusted Santa Monica spine surgeon should contact the spinal health experts at The Spine Institute. Our specialists lead the industry in innovative methods and cutting-edge treatments that enable patients to get back to their normal activities as soon as possible. Call us today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.