If you have back or neck pain don't rush to surgery. Most people can be cured without a major operation.
Back or neck pain affects 80% of adults and 50% of children. Most adults are hurt at work and most children are hurt playing sports. Over 90% recover with no surgery. Try conservative care first. If someone recommends surgery, get a second opinion.
Pain management includes most non-surgical care. It includes medications, pain blocks, counseling, therapy, and orther treatments. New medications are stronger and safer. Surgery cannot be undone but pain management stops when the back or neck heals.
Pain blocks are injections of anesthetic or cortisone, a natural hormone, which is put in a painful joint or a pinched nerve. Blocks help up to 75% of people.
Microdiscectomies and endoscopic discectomies repair damaged discs in the neck or back. A needle or tiny incision and a powerful microscope are used fix the broken part of the disc. They have less risk, and rarely need to be repeated. Hospitalization is not needed.
Minimally Invasive Fusion
Fusions are for neck or back pain that does not improve with other treatment. Once major operations took 8 to 10 hours, fusions are now done anteriorly in as little as two hours. The risks are lower. Complications are rare.
Older patients with spinal stenosis who once needed long operations now get relief from short procedures. Instead of removing the bones, a metal spacer is inserted. It works 80% of the time.
Broken backs once required major surgery. Vertebroplasty and Kyphoplasty are needle procedures which fix a broken bone. Plastic is used to strengthen the bone. Pain relief is often immediate.
The Artificial Disc
About one third of patients who have standard fusions require a second or even a third surgery. Artificial disc replacements are for painful, worn out discs in the back. An artificial disc can be inserted instead of a fusion and relieve pain with less risk.
Picking the Right Operation and the Right Doctor
The most important part of your care is before the hospital. The minimally invasive procedures each have specific indications. A well planned operation is almost always successful. Pick a surgeon who listens to you, explains options, and knows the most current techniques. If your surgeon is too rushed to answer questions in his office, he will be too rushed to do good surgery. Ask your surgeon how many cases he has done, his success rates, his complication rate, and if he will care for you after surgery.
If you have spine problems see a neurosurgeon
Neurosurgeons specialize in spinal problems and carpal tunnel injuries.