Back Stories

How do you Know When it’s Time for Back Surgery?

When is it time for surgery?

Your back has been hurting for what seems like forever, and you’ve tried pretty much everything, from stretching and yoga to hours with the heating pad to anti-inflammatory medicines like Ibuprofen to visiting a chiropractor, all with limited success. You may have even received some physical therapy and still not seen sufficient relief.

Is surgery the next step? For some, yes. “Of the patients that I see for back pain, 9 out of 10  do NOT need surgery,” according to Dr. Mark Valente. But how do you know if you are the 1 out of 10 that do?

Unrelenting Pain

“Most back pain resolves on its own within two months,” said the Mayo Clinic. If you’re well beyond that time frame and are still suffering, it’s time to see a doctor—if you haven’t already done so—or have a more serious conversation about your surgical options for back pain options if you’re already under a doctor’s care. “Back surgery might be an option if conservative treatments haven’t worked and your pain is persistent and disabling,” they said.

Progressive Pain

If your pain is not subsiding and is actually getting worse, a trip to the doctor is in order. Pay special attention to increasing weakness in your extremities or extreme back pain that comes on suddenly, which could indicate an issue that needs immediate treatment or has the potential for a surgical response.

Diagnosed Conditions like Herniated Discs or Bone Spurs

The intense pain and limited mobility that can be associated with these conditions may leave you with no other option but to consider surgery.

Numbness or Tingling

Numbness or tingling in your legs can be indicative of nerve issues related to a back injury, and may or may not require surgery. A doctor will conduct tests to pinpoint the problem and outline potential treatment options to treat your back pain.

Bladder or Bowel Issues

If you have back pain with bladder or bowel issues, it can be a sign of spinal stenosis and may lead to a serious emergency. You’ll want to see your doctor immediately to see if surgery is needed and to treat your condition.

Worsening Degenerative Conditions

Back pain caused by degenerative conditions like scoliosis may be alleviated with surgery. “Today’s surgical techniques can do wonderful things to reduce back pain caused by progressive degenerative conditions,” said Providence Health Plans. “When —and whether—you should consider surgery depends on your diagnosis and the progression of your back problem.”

Considering Surgery

If you’re thinking about surgery to alleviate back pain, there are a few questions you’ll want to ask your doctor. At the top of the list, “Am I a candidate for minimally invasive back surgery?” The minimally invasive approach can cut back greatly on:

  • The length of the operation
  • The size of the incision
  • The time spent in the hospital
  • The time spent recovering

Many minimally invasive surgical procedures can be done on an outpatient basis with complete recovery in a matter of weeks, as opposed to traditional back surgery, which could take up to a year for recovery, cost thousands more, require a long hospital stay, and leave you with a long incision across your back and extensive scar tissue, and the possibility of recurring pain and injury.

For more information, contact DISC Spine Institute, experts in minimally invasive treatments, the most effective medical procedures to treat and eliminate chronic back pain.

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Persephone de Vito
2 years ago

It truly helped me when you mentioned that the pain and immobility associated with spinal conditions like herniated discs will live a person no choice but to consider surgery. As much as possible, I don’t want to undergo surgery because it can be quite invasive and the recovery time is long. However, the pain in my back has become intolerable to the point where I can’t even lift a small box. I guess spine surgery really is the only option I have left. Thank you for the info.

Ashley Turns
2 years ago

Thanks for letting us know that a sign of needing spine surgery is if you’re experiencing any tingling in your legs since it could mean that you have nerve issues. My father has been feeling some numbness in his legs for a couple of months now, and we have been wondering how we should have it dealt with. We will definitely be bringing him in for a spine surgery consultation to see if his nerves are what the problem is.

Ashley Johnson
1 year ago

It made sense when you explained that you should go see a spinal surgeon if you have unrelenting pain that will not be cured by conservative treatments. I would imagine that living life with constant back pain would be frustrating. I would definitely consider going to see a surgeon if I was unable to relieve that pain at home.

James Borst
10 months ago

My dad is having back surgery next month and he said everything is non-invasive but I’ve been a little nervous about it. It is interesting that numbness and tingling in your legs may be related to a back injury. If I were getting surgery, I’d probably consult with a few neurosurgeons to make sure I make the right decision for me.

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