Not all back problems require spinal surgery. In fact, given the risks associated with any surgery, it’s often better to try conservative treatments first. So, how do you know when it might be time to think about back surgery, and is spinal surgery worth it? While there’s no “right” answer, here are three common signs you might need back surgery.
1. Conservative Treatment Has Failed
Sometimes, nonsurgical treatments like physiotherapy, nerve blocks and anti-inflammatory medication are enough to control your back pain, especially if you have a chronic condition like kyphosis or spondylolisthesis. Acute conditions like disc herniations also often respond well to conservative management.
However, if your pain doesn’t settle within a few months, or it’s affecting your quality of life, you might consider back surgery. It might also be worth discussing back surgery if you have a degenerative condition such as stenosis or degenerative disc disease.
2. You Suffer a Traumatic Injury
If you’re injured in an accident, there’s a chance you might have sustained a spinal fracture, which may cause serious complications if left untreated. Signs of a vertebral fracture include:
- Neck or back pain
- Point tenderness
- Muscle spasms
- Weakness, numbness, or tingling
Not all fractures require surgery, but it’s important you speak with a doctor as soon as possible for a proper diagnosis and management plan.
3. You Have a Serious Spinal Pathology
While many back problems are extremely painful, pain doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a serious problem in your spine. However, there’s a good chance you’ll require back surgery if you have a condition such as:
- Spinal infection
- Cauda equina
- Spinal tumor
Contact your doctor right away if you have back pain and any of the following “red flag: symptoms:
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Numbness or loss of sensation around your genitals, buttocks, anus, or inner thighs
- Severe pain at night
- Night sweats or fever
- Unexplained weight loss
- Numbness or weakness in the leg or arm
- Difficulty lifting your toes and the front part of your foot
Don’t ignore these symptoms – they could lead to permanent spinal nerve damage if they’re left untreated.
Is Back Surgery Worth It?
It can be, depending on your condition.
All surgery involves some degree of risk, so in many cases, it’s best to try conservative treatment options first. However, if you suffer from chronic pain, or the symptoms affect your quality of life in the long term, you might discuss back surgery with your doctor.
If it’s a medical emergency, surgery may be the only way to prevent permanent damage to your spine and nearby nerve roots, in which case the benefits of surgery often outweigh the risks.
How to Know When It’s Time for Back Surgery
If you’re in NJ and you’re thinking about back surgery, contact us for a consultation to discover how we can help.