Do You Need Back Surgery? 3 Signs to Watch Out For

Do you experience back aches that don’t seem to want to go away? You’re not alone. Back pain is one of the most common chronic complaints among Americans. If you’ve been living with severe back pain for quite some time, it’s natural to wonder if you already need some kind of back surgery. However, while surgery can solve some back pain causes, it’s rarely necessary. Typically, back pain resolves itself with proper treatment within a few months at most.

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Back problems commonly respond to non-surgical solutions, including over-the-counter pain relievers and physical therapy. But although rare, surgery can prove the best solution for certain conditions. In order to determine if back surgery is recommended for your condition, it is recommended to consult a spine specialist in Fort Lauderdale or your local area, who is able to conduct an in-person physical examination. This article, however, will provide you with some basic information and signs to look out for.

Introduction: Does Your Condition Warrant Back Surgery?

A spine surgeon may give surgery as an option if more conservative treatment methods don’t work and the pain already affects your quality of life. Often, surgery also relieves symptoms associated with back pain, such as arm and leg numbness. 

Below are some of the conditions that may warrant back surgery:

  • A slipped disk that doesn’t correct itself
  • Bone spurs or bone overgrowth in the spine
  • Degenerative spinal problems, such as stenosis, that cause pain and weakness
  • A broken or dislocated bone
  • Spinal infection
  • Spinal cord tumor

Moreover, having any of these conditions does not automatically mean that surgery is the only way out of your pain. Pinpointing the cause of back pain is tricky. Sometimes, X-rays can reveal a disk problem that ends up not being the source of pain. This is why it is crucial to consult a spine surgeon before worrying about undergoing back surgery.

3 Signs You Might Be a Candidate for Back Surgery

Back pain is common and yet quite complex to diagnose. The severity and intensity of pain alone cannot precisely tell whether a patient needs back surgery, although it is one of the signs to watch out for. 

Sign #1: Pain That Doesn’t Go Away

Typical acute back pain duration is anywhere between a few days to a few weeks. Moreover, a previous study suggested that 75 to 90 percent of lower back pain cases get better after more or less a month. For someone who isn’t experiencing back aches right now, that may sound like good news. But if you’re the one having trouble comfortably sitting, standing, walking, or lying down, those few weeks could feel like forever. Furthermore, if you’re more than two weeks in and it seems as though the pain isn’t going anywhere, it’s not a surprise that the thought of back surgery comes to mind.

Although you can expect acute back pain to get better on its own, you don’t have to wait it out and endure the pain. There are various treatments that your doctor can have you try, such as:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Physical therapy
  • Corticosteroid shots
  • Epidural injections
  • Lifestyle changes

If these conservative treatment and maintenance options don’t improve your symptoms at all, you may want to ask your doctor about back surgery.

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Sign #2: The Pain Radiates to Your Arms and Legs

When you have a back ache accompanied by arm and leg pain, you are experiencing radiculopathy or simply, radiating pain. This often indicates that a nerve root on your spine is taking pressure. Depending on the cause and severity of the condition, surgery may be advised.

The most common causes of radiating back pain are bone spurs and herniated disks. Bone spurs, medically known as osteophytes, are products of spinal osteoarthritis. They form when the articular cartilage in spinal bone joints wears away, causing bone-on-bone contact. Bone spurs can form near and around nerve roots and put pressure on them. 

Disk herniation, on the other hand, occurs when the spine’s jellylike inner layer protrudes through the fibrous outer layer. The herniation might press on a nerve root, leading to radiculopathy. 

As usual, a spine doctor will first try and recommend non-surgical and less invasive treatments before resorting to surgery. 

Sign #3: Severe Symptoms and Trauma

When back pain and associated symptoms are caused by an emergency and trauma, a spine surgeon will typically decide to perform surgery right away. Emergencies can include accidents and severe events resulting from chronic conditions, such as cauda equina syndrome.

Cauda equina can lead to permanent paralysis, making it an emergency. It is caused by infection, trauma, tumor, or prolonged compression of nerve roots in the lower spine. Its symptoms include severe back pain, sexual dysfunction, sudden loss of bowel and bladder control, and lower body weakness or numbness.

Consult a Certified Spine Surgeon in Delray Beach

You don’t need to keep on suffering from chronic back pain. Even if you think your backache doesn’t require surgery, consulting one of the best spine surgeons in South Florida, such as Dr. Matthew Hepler, is still the best way to get the right diagnosis and know the best course of action for your condition. Dr. Hepler is a trusted orthopedic spine surgeon that offers expertise in both surgical and non-surgical treatments of spine-related ailments. With over 17 years of experience, he provides individualized care to every patient. 

Start living a back pain-free life! Contact us to learn more and schedule a consultation.

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The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.