Orthopedic Specialists

When Should You Consider Back Surgery?

October 13, 2022

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Back pain is one of the most common reasons patients visit a healthcare provider. Symptoms of back issues (either due to a back injury/spine injury or a chronic back condition) such as back pain, reduced range of motion, back stiffness, etc. can often be treated with non-surgical methods such as physical therapy. But how do you know when it may be time to talk to a doctor about back surgery

Signs You May Need Back Surgery

Nonsurgical Treatments Have Been Exhausted

For most back conditions and chronic back pain, physical therapy and pain medications are the first courses of treatment. But how do you know when medications and physical therapy just aren't cutting it? 

  • You have given the proper amount of effort and time but have experienced no improvements 

  • You experienced results for a while, but have stopped progressing past a certain point 

  • You’re in too much pain/unable to perform the recommended course of physical therapy treatments

  • Your orthopedic doctor or physical therapist determines back surgery may be the necessary next step

You’ve Suffered Certain Back Injuries and/or Back Conditions

For some back problems, spinal surgery is the best treatment method. This can be the case when the back issues: 

  • Can’t be treated by non-surgical means

  • Non-surgical are not producing results

  • Surgical treatment would be far more effective

  • You’re unable to live life normally due to your back condition and cannot wait for results from non-surgical treatments

Back and spine conditions that often benefit from surgery include (but are not limited to):

Spinal Stenosis: This condition is also called spinal narrowing as it entails a narrowing of the spinal canal that puts pressure on the spine and the nerves in the spine. Spinal Stenosis can lead to pain, numbness, muscle weakness, and impaired bladder or bowel control. Spinal Stenosis can occur due to a variety of factors including bone spurs, herniated discs, thick ligaments, spinal injuries, and age-related factors. 

Spondylolisthesis: Spondylolisthesis is a spinal disorder where a vertebra slips forward onto the bone below it. This can cause severe back pain as well as nerve crowding that results in leg numbness and tightness. Spondylolisthesis often results from participating in sports that put pressure on the lower back (such as football and gymnastics) as well as genetic and age-related factors. 

Herniated Disc(s): A herniated disc (also known as a ruptured disc, torn disc, or slipped disc) occurs when a disc is displaced. This can put pressure on the surrounding nerves causing pain, numbness, and/or weakness in the back, arms, and/or legs. Herniated discs are usually the result of improper lifting or twisting that forces the disc out of place. 

Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD): With this condition, the discs between the vertebrae wear down over time and lose cushioning, resulting in weakness, numbness, and mild chronic pain that regularly flairs up to more sharp, severe pain. This condition occurs in older patients due to wear and tear over time. 

A Synovial Cyst: Synovial cysts can occur anywhere on the spine but are most common in the lumbar region (lower back). Synovial cysts are abnormal, fluid-filled sacs in the joints of the spine. These cysts can put pressure on nerves causing pain and can also under movement. Spinal synovial cysts occur due to age-related degeneration and/or systemic disease that affect joints. 

Types of Back Surgery

Back surgeons perform a wide variety of back surgeries based on the specific condition and individual patient factors. While there are many different types of back/spine surgeries, they fall into two main, broad categories. 

  1. Spinal Decompression Surgery: reduces pressure and/or pinching on various aspects of the spinal systems 

  2. Spinal Stabilization Surgery: restores alignments and repairs spinal structures, usually with hardware such as artificial discs, screws, plates, etc.

Why Choose An Orthopedic Surgeon For Back Surgeries

Orthopedic back and spine surgeons are specially trained in musculoskeletal anatomy, injuries and conditions, and treatments. This means they have advanced training and experience in back surgery which can produce better recovery outcomes. They can also provide expert education for patients after back surgery on surgical recovery and lifestyle changes to help recovery and prevent future issues. 

Get Expert Diagnosis, Treatment, and Recovery Support For Your Back Condition

At Orthopedic Specialists, our experienced back surgeons are here to provide expert, compassionate back surgery procedures backed by the latest technologies and state-of-the-art facilities. Don’t let your back problems progress, trust an experienced, trusted orthopedic clinic. Trust Orthopedic Specialists with your spinal surgery. Schedule an appointment at one of our Iowa orthopedic clinics today!

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