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Surgery FAQ

Common Questions About Neck and Back Pain & Spinal Surgery
Tired of living with neck or back pain? Are you unsure about what treatment options are available or where to begin learning about this process? Our expert care in minimally invasive cervical and lumbar spine surgery can get you back to a fully active and enjoyable life.

Our team understands that dealing with neck and back pain can be confusing and scary. We are here to help. If you are struggling with neck or back pain and are considering surgery, you’ve come to the right place. The following are our most common questions to help you make informed decisions every step of the process.

What are the common causes of back or neck pain?
There are a variety of causes for back or neck pain. Most commonly causes include lifestyle choices, such as sitting at a desk for long periods, lifting heavy weights, irregular exercise routines and not focusing on back muscle exercises during workouts. Additionally, smoking tends to aggravate or accelerate spine degeneration and spondylosis. There can also be serious conditions such as tumors or infections that may be a factor with back or neck pain.

When should I see a doctor for back or neck pain?
You should visit your doctor when the pain begins to interfere with your routine activities, when you experience pain during the nigh, or when back and neck pain is associated with sharp shooting pain down the leg or arm. Pain associated with weakness or loss of sensation in the limbs or with urinary disturbances needs evaluation by a neuro-spinal surgeon immediately.

What treatment options are available?
There are many methods to treat back and neck pain. The most proven methods include rest, physiotherapy, and short-term painkillers. Nearly 50 to 60 percent of patients respond to these measures in a few weeks. However, continued physiotherapy and lifestyle modifications are necessary to continue maintaining the health of the spine.

When do I need to consider surgery?
In most cases, surgery is offered only if the patient has not responded to medications and physiotherapy or if the patient has loss of function or sensation in the limb. The most common condition that requires surgery is a prolapsed disc in the cervical or lumbar spine that is causing severe neck or back pain associated with shooting paint in the limbs, and weakness or numbness in the limbs.

What types of surgery are available?
We specialize in several spinal procedures, including Laminectomy, Discectomy, Spinal Fusion, and Minimally Invasive Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion.

Discectomy is performed when a disc has herniated, while spinal fusion is a type of spinal surgery in which two vertebrae are connected together so that they will form into a solid bone. Laminectomy is a surgery in which the back part of the vertebra that covers the spine is removed. Minimally Invasive Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (MI TLIF) is a surgical procedure used to replace degenerative discs, restoring the natural alignment of the spine.

Will I need screws, plates or rods for spinal surgery?
In some cases, if there is slipping of the vertebral bones in the spine or in highly mobile areas of the spine, screws and rods are inserted to add to the stability of the spine and prevent the recurrence of symptoms. It also avoids the need for prolonged periods of rest following surgery and facilitates the early return to work.

Will my spinal mobility be restricted after surgery?
Some patients will have restricted spinal mobility, however since the spine is made up of multiple vertebral segments, over time with the proper exercises, most of the mobility can be regained. In some cases, there are mobility preservation techniques available, including the placement of artificial discs.

What types of exams are needed for back or neck pain?
Exams vary from patient to patient, but often a routine x-ray is used for most cases of back or neck pain. If you are suffering from severe or continuous pain, or pain associated with numbness or weakness in the limbs, you may require an MRI scan. Some cases may require a CT to get a better picture of the changes in the spine. Bone scans are often done in cases when osteoporosis or tumors of the spine are suspected.

Is spinal surgery dangerous?
Although all surgeries carry risk, with advancements in medical care and technology, spinal surgery can be safely performed. Your surgeon will fully discuss potential risks prior to any operation.

Can disc prolapse recur after surgery?
You may experience disc prolapse at another level, often unrelated to your surgery. Often, recurrence at the same level of disc is uncommon. It is more likely in patients who have not had adequate rest following surgery, those who continue to have poor posture, and those who do not exercise the back muscles regularly.

How long do I need to rest following disc surgery?
In most cases, you can start walking the day immediately following surgery. It is advisable not to sit for long durations, or to bend or lift weights, and to avoid extreme sports or off-roading for about two weeks after surgery.

Do I need to wear a belt or neck collar all the time after surgery?
Neck or spine braces are typically only required in certain cases. Generally, you will only need to wear them while sitting for long durations or while traveling. Typically these precautions are taken for four to six weeks post-surgery.

How many days will I need to stay in the hospital?
Most patients experience immediate relief from limb pain and can be discharged on the same or next day. In cases where implants are used, the patients may need to stay in the hospital for three to four days post-surgery.

Will I be able to perform my normal activities following spine surgery?
Most patients can perform their regular activities about four weeks following spinal surgery. However, it is advisable to adopt correct posture, perform regular back strengthening exercises, and to avoid lifting heavy weights to prevent the recurrence of spine problems.

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Have you had an MRI in the last 12 months?