4 Things To Consider Before Having Spine Surgery

For those suffering chronic back or neck pain, the effects can be more than just physical.  The mental toll of chronic pain can affect the quality of life, decision making, and overall attitude. Many patients just want to find relief in the quickest and most effective way possible.  While surgery could be an option, it is important for a patient to educate themselves first by learning about their condition and their treatment options.

Below, renowned Neurosurgeon and Spine Specialist, Dr. Anthony Virella, discusses 4 ways to evaluate if spinal surgery may be an option:

Are you in constant pain? –  Much of the back or neck pain many patients suffer is known as “acute” pain and is generally the result of overexertion or muscle strain.  This type of injury will usually resolve itself within a few days with over the counter medications.  If the pain is not subsiding and becomes constant, it is what is known as “chronic” pain and is often a sign of an underlying spinal condition.  When pain becomes chronic, it is important to consult a spine specialist to evaluate the cause of the pain.

Have you tried physical therapy? – Physical therapy is commonly recommended before a patient makes the decision to undergo surgery. Many conditions can be treated this way, allowing the patient to avoid surgery altogether. Physical therapists often focus on strengthening the muscles of the core (abdomen and lower back).  By strengthening these muscles, posture often improves.  Proper posture and core strength have been proven to have a direct correlation to lower back pain. If physical therapy does not help subside the pain.

How is your quality of life? – Constant back or neck pain can put severely affect the quality of life for many patients.  Patients often complain about struggling to pick up their children, climbing stairs, bending over or doing anything they were accustomed to doing.  These limitations can make patients feel make patients feel like they are a shell of who they once were.  For these patients, the long-term benefits of surgery should be considered.  By relieving the chronic pain, patients are able to return to the active and healthy lifestyle they once enjoyed.

Does pain radiate into your arms/legs? – Back and neck pain is not always confined to the back or neck and many patients experience pain the radiates into the extremities.  Pain radiating into the legs is often referred to as Sciatica and is a sign of an underlying condition in which a portion of the spinal disc or spinal bones are pressing on the nerve roots of the spine.  If this type of pain exists in the upper extremities, it is known as radiculopathy.

Because this type of pain is a sign of an underlying condition, it is important to immediately consult a spine specialist if:

  • Back pain coupled with bladder or bowel dysfunction
  • Back or neck pain accompanied by leg or arm pain, or leg or arm weakness
  • Back or neck pain following any trauma such as an auto accident, or a fall
  • Back pain accompanied by an inability the feet to function properly.

For the majority of patients that Dr. Virella sees, spine surgery is not required.  Instead, he will explore conservative alternatives to spine surgery which may include epidural injections, anti-inflammatory medications, or additional conservative therapy. If all other avenues have been explored, you may be a candidate for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery.

Dr. Anthony Virella has multiple offices throughout Southern California for patients’ convenience. As a Board Certified Neurosurgeon, Dr. Virella has served the Southern California Community for more than a decade. As an award, winning surgeon, Dr. Virella has also been the winner of the Patient’s Choice Award, as well as being named a Top Neurological Surgeon, and the recipient of the Most Compassionate Doctor award.

Call us at 805.449.0088 to schedule an appointment.