For patients suffering from neck or back pain, the idea of surgery can be quite intimidating. Indeed, in earlier days, spine surgery could be quite involved and complicated, and the rates of success were inconsistent at best. However, nowadays, spine surgery is not nearly as fearsome a prospect as it once was. Thanks to modern medical advances and technology, many patients are finding lasting relief of both neck pain and back pain through minimally invasive surgery. Most patients even go home the same day. We’ve put together the following guide so you can know what to expect before, during and after minimally invasive spine surgery.
Determining Whether Surgery Is Necessary
Upon the first symptoms of significant back pain, many people automatically assume surgery is the solution. However, many back and neck injuries can be treated effectively using non-invasive solutions, including physical therapy, massage therapy, steroid injections and regenerative injection therapies. So, the first question worth asking your doctor is whether your back pain actually requires surgery or if there are other treatments you should try first. If minimally invasive surgery is the best course of action, here are 10 questions to ask your spinal surgeon before moving ahead with the procedure.
What Conditions Can be Treated with Surgery?
Various minimally invasive procedures can be used to treat a number of severe back injuries and conditions in the lumbar (lower back), thoracic (upper back) and cervical (neck) regions of the spine. Some of these conditions include:
- Herniated disc
- Degenerative disc disease
- Spondylolisthesis (when one vertebra slides over another)
- Spinal stenosis
- Spondylolysis (stress fracture)
- Spinal tumors
In addressing these conditions, spine surgeons may perform one or more minimally invasive procedures to alleviate pain, relieve pressure and stabilize the area. These may include laminectomy (partial removal of bone), discectomy (partial or full removal of a herniated disc), spinal fusion (fusing two or more vertebrae together for stability), and artificial disc replacement.
To maximize the benefit of the procedure and minimize the risk of complications, your spine surgeon will ask you to take certain steps beforehand to prepare for surgery. These may include avoiding tobacco use, refraining from food/water for 12 hours before the procedure, and refraining from wearing makeup or jewelry the day of the surgery. You may also be asked to bring any current medications you’re taking, along with any pre-operative imaging you’ve had done. Be sure to check our special education section with helpful documents and videos on preparing for surgery here.
Once you’ve been properly prepped for surgery, you’ll be placed under general anesthesia for the procedure itself. Minimally invasive spinal surgeries usually take between one and several hours to perform, depending on the extent and number of procedures and other factors. After surgery, you’ll be taken into recovery and monitored as the effects of the anesthesia wear off. In most cases, patients are able to go home the same day. You’ll need to arrange for someone to drive you home afterward.
Recovery from Surgery
One of the greatest benefits of modern minimally invasive techniques is that patients generally enjoy much faster recovery times from spine surgery than they used to. After surgery, back pain recovery usually takes between 4-6 weeks, but most patients can at least begin resuming some normal activities within a few days. If you’ve had multiple procedures or a spinal fusion, it may take several months to feel completely normal again. For more information, check out these tips for speeding up spinal recovery time.
At Polaris Spine & Neurosurgery Center, our approach is to exhaust all non-surgical options before recommending surgery. However, when it’s recommended, minimally invasive spine surgery can help provide lasting pain relief, and in some cases give you a new lease on life. To learn more, call us at 404-256-2633 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.