How do you know if it’s time for back surgery?

If you or a loved one is suffering from chronic neck or back pain, you’re not alone. More than 80 percent of Americans have, or will, suffer from back pain during their lifetime. Just because back pain is common doesn’t make dealing with it any easier.

In fact, living with chronic neck or back pain can greatly impact your life. It can strain your finances because of lost days at work or increased medical costs. Back pain can add stress to your relationships. Mostly, though, back pain seems to take away the little joys in life.

Back pain can occur for almost any reason. Sometimes there is a traumatic event such as a car or sporting accident that causes back pain. Other times, aging causes neck or back pain because of arthritis or disc shrinking, which can cause pressure to be placed on nerves.

So what are your options if you have back pain? If the pain doesn’t go away after a few days of rest, you should consider visiting your primary care physician. He or she will likely suggest a course of conservative, nonsurgical treatment. This includes:

  • Low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming, yoga or Pilates
  • Use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen
  • Physical Therapy
  • Chiropractic care

If your pain hasn’t lessened after several weeks or months of conservative treatment, you physician request x-rays, MRIs or CT scans. These will help him to be able to more accurately pinpoint the cause of your pain. Depending on what your physician finds, a surgical solution may be suggested.

If your physician suggests a surgical approach to relieving your pain, make sure you research all of your options. Here are some questions you should ask your surgeon and physician:

  • What’s the difference between minimally invasive spine surgery and traditional open-back surgery?
  • What is the recovery period like for minimally invasive spine surgery compared to traditional open back surgery?
  • How long will I need to stay in the hospital?
  • What is the success rate of minimally invasive spine surgery compared to traditional open back surgery?

Remember, it is always OK to get a second opinion when it comes to making a decision about spine surgery.

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