More than half a million spinal decompression and stabilization procedures are performed each year in the United States. Robot-assisted surgery, minimally invasive methods, and other advances in technology have made such operations safer and more successful. Some patients do just fine with conservative methods that typically include various forms of physical therapy, while other individuals experience many benefits following recovery from surgery. Find out how you can tell if spine surgery is necessary in your situation.
What Are Your Responses to Conservative Treatments?
Even with improved techniques, any type of surgery is stressful on the body. For example, with fusion surgery, you’ll have to wait for the fusion to form. If it’s possible for your pain to be sufficiently managed without surgery, it may be best to hold off on surgery that’s considered elective (not absolutely necessary) or skip it altogether. The possibility of spine surgery in the future will depend on:
- How well conservative treatments are working after 4-6 months
- Whether or not your pain is too severe for conservative care to be effective
- If conservative treatments that once helped are no longer working
Are There Serious Health/Medical Reasons for Surgery?
Surgery may be the treatment recommended first if there are serious health issues involved, which may be the case if you have a spinal tumor or an injury directly affecting your spinal cord. Spine surgery may also be the better choice if:
- Nerve compression is causing severe radiating nerve pain
- There were issues with the first attempt at surgery that can only be corrected with another procedure
- Previous spinal fusion surgery has weakened another area of the spine
- Urinary or bowel functions are affected
Do You “Want” or “Need” Spine Surgery?
Decisions about spine surgery often come down to a question of want versus need. Most of the time, there is no urgent need to have surgery. With situations like this, you’ll likely have the time to give different conservative options a chance to work before seriously considering surgery. However, you may still reach a point where you want surgery so you can reduce your dependence on medication and possibly enjoy better relief from symptoms. These are certainly valid reasons to, at the very least, discuss surgical possibilities with a Los Angeles spine surgeon. Other times, there are significant health or medical reasons to consider surgery or compelling reasons you’ll need to have spine surgery as soon as possible, such as a severely unstable spine or debilitating symptoms affecting quality of life. Also consider:
- How accurately your spine-related pain has been diagnosed
- Whether or not a structural source of spine-related discomfort has been found
- Your general activity level and lifestyle
- The odds of the issue with your spine returning
Spine surgery is unique because it’s not recommended if there isn’t a confirmed structural issue that can be corrected.
Before making a final decision about spine surgery, determine if you’ve explored all non-surgical possibilities if there isn’t a pressing medical urgency to have surgery. For some patients, this means considering acupuncture, chiropractic care, mindful meditation, and other alternative treatments. If the best option is spinal fusion surgery, Los Angeles patients should take the time to ask questions so they have realistic expectations and commit to actively participating in recovery to increase the odds of positive results. To learn more about fusion and non-fusion spinal procedures, contact The Spine Institute today at 310-828-7757.