Tiger Woods is one of several notable people who have benefited from spinal surgery. In Tiger’s case, surgery provided much-appreciated relief and helped him focus on his game, and his is just one of many spine surgery success stories. However, even though Woods found relief through anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF), Santa Monica patients are more likely to be advised to skip spinal surgery and take advantage of conservative care options. Here are four reasons this may be the case.
With tumors, spinal cord injuries, and debilitating pain, spine surgery is an understandable—and often medically necessary—first option for treatment. However, most of the time, a spine specialist isn’t even going to suggest surgery until non-surgical treatments have been attempted for at least 2–3 months without success. Common recommendations include:
• Physical therapy exercises • Weight loss • Diet adjustments • Pain meds, anti-inflammatory meds, or other medications • Therapeutic injections • Hot and cold therapy
Any type of surgery carries certain risks. Even so, there are some instances when the risks associated with a non-emergency spine-related procedure are too great to recommend surgery. For instance, if you have unmanaged diabetes and you’re overweight, or if you’re older with several underlying health issues, it may be safer to find a non-surgical treatment or pain management plan that’s right for you.
Some people are under the assumption spinal surgery is a shortcut, thinking all they’ll need to do is recover after everything is “fixed.” But spinal surgery isn’t meant to be a substitute for the efforts necessary to increase the odds of seeing noticeable improvements with conservative care. Both spine surgery recovery and conservative treatments require the same level of commitment.
If it’s believed surgery will give you roughly the same level of relief or improvement as conservative care, you’ll likely be advised to stick with non-surgical methods. Also, you’ll be more likely to benefit from conservative care if you take the following steps:
• Provide ongoing feedback to your Santa Monica spine surgeon and/or physical therapist • Follow recommendations for exercises you can do on your own between physical therapy sessions • Make an effort to adjust your lifestyle habits • Report any changes in your symptoms so appropriate adjustments to your treatment plan can be made
For some patients, surgery may be an option worth considering in the future, but not right now. This is likely to be the case if there are certain factors that would make spinal surgery too risky at the moment. For instance, you may be advised to continue with conservative care until you lose some weight or get underlying health conditions under control. If you’re able to do this, surgery may become an option later if conservative treatments still aren’t providing meaningful relief.
Just because spinal surgery may not be right for you at the moment doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy a better quality of life. If initial conservative efforts aren’t successful, you may be advised to explore your options with chiropractic care, alternative treatments such as acupuncture, or psychological treatments such as mindful meditation. Disciplines such as yoga sometimes provide appealing mind-body benefits as well.
If you’re searching for industry-leading spinal specialists to evaluate and treat your back or neck pain, call on the physicians at The Spine Institute. Our spinal health experts are pioneers in the use of innovative techniques and cutting-edge technology to alleviate back pain. Call one of our helpful representatives today at 310-828-7757.