Back pain is more common than you think but severe back pain can be debilitating. No matter what the cause, it makes you wonder when you can go back to leading a normal life without the discomfort and pain. Whether you have mild or severe back trouble, it’s important to first identify the cause and then treat it with non-surgical solutions before considering surgery.
At Desert Spine & Scoliosis Center, we believe in a conservative approach to the management and treatment of conditions of the spine. Only when all treatment possibilities have been reviewed, do we consider surgery. For those of you wondering “Is back surgery worth it for you?”, we offer the low-down on when it might be a good option and when it can be avoided. That said, please note that ultimately the choice is up to you and your doctor.
Treatment Options to Consider First
The first step is to naturally find out why your back hurts. In many cases, back pain can be eased with one or a combination of several treatment options that include physical therapy, injections, cold or hot therapy, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) medications.
Another surprising contender on this list is regular exercise – it will not only help keep your spine in good shape but will also prevent back problems in the future. Just be sure to maintain proper posture during your workout. However here’s an important caveat: If you’re having severe back pain, it’d be best to first consult an orthopedic specialist before you start exercising or the problem might only get aggravated.
Naturally, the treatment options available to you depend on your specific situation. And it’d be best to seek consultation with your doctor who is well versed with your unique case and challenges.
However if you’re avoiding visiting a medical professional because you’re afraid they might advise surgery, remember that the only time a doctor recommends surgery before trying any other option is when there is a serious spinal cord injury that needs to be addressed on an urgent basis.
When Is Back Surgery Worth It?
If after trying all conservative treatment courses and there is no relief from the pain or if the back stability hasn’t improved, then surgery might be an option worth considering. It’d be worthwhile to mention here that not all surgeries are major or invasive and how long a back surgery takes depends on the type of procedure. Many back surgeries are minor and do not require an extensive postoperative recovery period.
Some types of persistent pain caused by compressed nerves in the spine may be cured by surgery. There are no general indicative signs that one needs back surgery but here are some common back conditions that may benefit from surgical intervention:
- Disc Degeneration
- Bone Spurs/Osteophytes
Bone spurs may place pressure on the hinge joints on the spinal cord, at times even making it difficult for nerves to pass through the openings in the spine.
- Slipped Disc
The rubbery disc between the vertebrae in the spine either becomes displaced or protrudes slightly.
- Spinal Degeneration
Spinal Degeneration is a rare but serious infectious disease in which an infection invades the spinal tissues.
All of the conditions mentioned above can result in what’s called spinal stenosis. This is a degenerative condition in which the protective bony canal around the spinal cord narrows and puts pressure on the spinal cord which can cause pain, weakness or numbness in the arms and legs.
Some other types of spinal problems for which back surgery is worth it include pain or numbness in the arms or legs, tumor on the spinal cord, broken or dislocated bones in the back, and disability or immobility due to spinal conditions. Lost bladder or bowel control – another health-related challenge that may not seem to be spine-related on the surface but in reality may be due to a problem with the spinal nerves – may also require back surgery.
Evaluating Your Options
How to know when it’s time for back surgery? The first step is to stop looking for answers online. No amount of online literature or “Do I need back surgery” quizzes can offer the right advice pertaining to your unique situation.
So, to determine whether back surgery is worth it for you, it’d be best to opt for an honest, one-on-one consultation with your doctor to evaluate all your options. It cannot be emphasized enough that in many cases back surgery is not worth it, so your doctor may in all likelihood not recommend it.
Heat treatment, spinal injections, physical therapy, or medications or a combination of one or more of these treatments may offer tremendous relief. In most cases, after approximately three months of conservative treatment, it’s found that lower back pain vanishes.