When you hear that spine surgery is recommended for you, it might seem a bit scary. After all, your spine is such an important part of your body, and if you’re in pain, you might fear surgery could somehow make matters worse.
Once we’ve agreed together that surgery is the best option for you, you may have several questions you want to ask about the upcoming procedure. Read on as our seasoned team of board-certified experts at MidJersey Orthopaedics explains more about the general topics and concerns you should cover before your operation.
The different types of spinal surgery
Spinal surgery is a term that refers to several different procedures. What they all have in common is that they fix problematic spinal structures and aim to relieve chronic back pain. One of the first questions you should ask is which type of procedure you’ll have. Common spine surgeries include:
Your spinal column is made up of bones called vertebrae, which are cushioned by rubbery disks. Sometimes, these disks break down or start to wear away, which can cause severe back pain.
This is the most common type of surgery for chronic and non-specific back pain with degenerative changes. In this procedure, the doctor joins the bones in your spine together, which limits the amount your nerves can stretch. This prevents back pain from occurring but usually won’t significantly limit your range of motion.
In this procedure, a surgeon removes damaged parts of your back, such as bones, bone spurs, or ligaments. This can help you to experience relief from pressure on your spinal nerves. But it may also make your spine less stable, so you may also need a spinal fusion during the same procedure.
You may have this type of surgery if you have pain due to compressed nerves. The surgeon cuts away the bone at the sides of your vertebrae, which can relieve your back pain. But like a laminotomy, it may make your spine feel less stable, so you may also need a spinal fusion as well.
If you have damaged disks in your back, you may need to have them replaced with artificial disks. The surgeon removes the damaged disks and inserts artificial ones in their place. The recovery time may be shorter than for a spinal fusion, and unlike spinal fusion, you should have an easier time restoring full range of motion.
This procedure is a minimally-invasive alternative to procedures like a spinal fusion. The surgeon will implant a U-shaped device in between two of your vertebrae. It helps to keep the space open between the vertebrae, which can alleviate your back pain.
You’ll want to ask about the expected length of time to recover from your surgery. It’s important to have realistic expectations. You’ll also want to ask if there’s any advanced preparation you should carry out to make your recovery period easier to manage.
How well it will work
This is perhaps the biggest question of all: How well will your procedure work to relieve your back pain? Unfortunately, this is not something we can definitively answer. We don’t always know how well it will work, how much pain relief you’ll get, or how long your relief may last.
However, we generally have a pretty good idea about how much relief we expect you to get from your procedure. In most cases, we will try conservative measures first, such as physical therapy, medications, and spine injections, only recommending surgery when you haven’t received adequate relief.
Ask about possible risks
As with all forms of surgery, spinal surgery carries possible risks, including:
- Nerve damage
- Spinal cord damage
- Bleeding or blood clots
- Need for additional surgery
- Returning or remaining symptoms
In general, you’ll be less likely to experience these problems if you’re a non-smoker and in relatively good health.
If you’re dealing with chronic back pain, you’re probably desperate for some relief. If our team recommends spine surgery, you can rest assured that you’re in good hands. To learn more, call or click online to schedule a consultation at your nearest MidJersey Orthopaedics office in Flemington, Bridgewater, and Washington, New Jersey.