I often tell my patients that their role in spine surgery is just as important as mine. I encourage patients to ask as many questions as possible and do their own research, so they are well informed. I can provide the diagnosis and treatment options, but I can’t do the rehabilitation after surgery or make lifestyle changes (like quitting smoking) that can impact the success of surgery. Patients play a critical role in the recovery process. Understanding what to expect and having prior knowledge of your condition is an essential part of that journey.
Common Causes of Back Pain
Back pain is a common complaint, but not all causes of back pain require surgery. If you are experiencing back pain, be sure to speak with a spine specialist to properly diagnose and treat your condition. Chronic back pain conditions that may be treated with surgery include:
- Herniated or ruptured discs (when the disc that cushion the bones of the spine are damaged)
- Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal column)
- Degenerative disc disease (damage to a disc caused by age)
- Spondylolisthesis (when a bone in the spine slips out of place)
- Vertebral fractures (caused by injury or osteoporosis)
Do I Need Back Surgery?
Before I discuss spine surgery with my patients, I explain that every person’s back pain is unique. I also tell my patients that it’s important to consider how long they’ve had pain. For example, if they’ve suffered from back issues for years, surgery could help immensely. But if their back pain is fairly new, conservative treatment options may be worth trying first, such as injections or physical therapy. If these alternatives are unsuccessful, spine surgery may be the best option to help regain normal function and quality of life. When considering spine surgery, I always recommend patients think about how it will impact their lives and to speak with family and loved ones beforehand. Some spine surgeries require patients to be out of work for several weeks and having a support system during the recovery process is extremely important.
Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery
Minimally invasive spine surgery uses smaller incisions that cause less damage to the muscles, which can result in a faster recovery, shorter hospital stays and less pain medication use. The goal of any spine surgery is to treat a patient’s pain and slow or stop any functional decline. My hope is after surgery, patients find relief and can return to a higher quality of life than they had prior to surgery.
If you have questions about back or neck pain, or would like to schedule an appointment with our spine care team, book an appointment online or call (512) 439-1001. Keep up with Texas Orthopedics news by following us on Facebook and Instagram.
Dr. Alex Cruz is an orthopedic surgeon with fellowship training in spine surgery. He specializes in minimally invasive surgical techniques and sees patients in Northwest Austin, Central Austin, and Round Rock.