General FAQ

What is Neurosurgery?
When most people hear the word “neurosurgery” they automatically think of brain surgery. However, neurosurgery encompasses far more than the brain. Neurological Surgery, or neurosurgery, is the medical specialty involving surgery or procedures of the entire nervous system, including the brain, spine and spinal cord, as well as the nerves that travel through all parts of the body (hands, legs, arms, face). After graduating from college, a neurosurgeon must complete four years of medical school and then another seven years of postdoctoral training focused on neurosurgery. While much of that time is spent learning the techniques of procedures, even more important is knowing when — and when not — to apply them.

What is a PA (Physician Assistant), and what does he do?
Physician assistants are health care professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, PAs provide a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic services and conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery, and write prescriptions. A PA’s practice may also include education, research, and administrative services.

PA students are taught, as are medical students, to diagnose and treat medical problems. After graduating from college, physician assistants are educated for two or more years in classroom and laboratory instruction in the basic medical and behavioral sciences (such as anatomy, pharmacology, pathophysiology, clinical medicine, and physical diagnosis), followed by clinical rotations in internal medicine, family medicine, surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, emergency medicine, and geriatric medicine.

Upon graduation, physician assistants take a national certification examination developed by the National Commission on Certification of PAs in conjunction with the National Board of Medical Examiners. Graduation from an accredited physician assistant program and passage of the national certifying exam are required for state licensure.

What is Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation?
A physiatrist (fizz ee at’ trist) is a physician specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Physiatrists treat a wide range of problems from sore shoulders to spinal cord injuries. They see patients in all age groups and treat problems that touch upon all the major systems in the body. These specialists focus on restoring function to people.

To become a physiatrist, individuals must successfully complete four years of medical school and four additional years of postdoctoral residency training. Residency training includes one year spent developing fundamental clinical skills and three additional years of training in the full scope of the specialty.

Physiatrists treat acute and chronic pain and musculoskeletal disorders. They may see a person who lifts a heavy object at work and experiences back pain, a basketball player who sprains an ankle and needs rehabilitation to play again, or a knitter who has carpal tunnel syndrome. Physiatrists’ patients include people with arthritis, tendonitis, any kind of back or neck pain, and work or sports related injuries.

Physiatrists also treat serious disorders of the musculoskeletal system that result in severe functional limitations. They would treat a baby with a birth defect, someone in a bad car accident, or an elderly person with a broken hip. Physiatrists coordinate the long-term rehabilitation process for patients with spinal cord injuries, cancer, stroke or other neurological disorders, brain injuries, amputations, and multiple sclerosis.

Why do I hurt somewhere other than the site of my injury?
Pain can sometimes be felt in a different area than the original site of injury or disease, making you unsure as to the extent of your problem. This is called referred pain or radiating pain. While several factors may come into play, it is often due to the nerve pathways in the body. A compressed nerve in the lower spine, for example, can cause pain down into the leg and a repetitive injury in the wrist can cause pain in the ring and little fingers.

What are the risks for surgery?
All surgeries carry risk. Risks are relative to the procedure involved, the severity of your illness or injury, and your overall health status. The surgeon will fully discuss your risks prior to the operation. Surgical risks include bleeding complications, risk of infection, and risks from anesthesia, such as breathing difficulties.

What are “conservative measures”?
Often, conservative measures are attempted for several months prior to surgery. Many people respond well to these treatments, avoiding the need for surgical intervention. Depending on your condition, conservative measures may include injections, anti-inflammatory medication, rest, ice, heat, stretching exercises, strengthening exercises, a brace or similar device, pain medicine, or muscle relaxants. Physical therapy provides conservative treatments and educates the patient regarding proper posture, lifting techniques, and new ways to perform work tasks or activities of daily living.

Do you offer post-surgical rehabilitation services?
While we do not employ therapists in our office, we do have very close relationships with many Physical Therapy practices throughout Western Michigan. We would work closely with your therapist to develop the most effective treatment plan, specific to you. Depending on your condition, physical therapy can guide you safely through walking, strengthening exercises, learning how to use adaptive equipment, and learning new ways to perform everyday tasks.

How can I avoid injury to my nerves, muscles, and bones?
Keeping yourself in good physical shape is the best way to avoid injury. Healthy muscles respond appropriately to various demands, while muscles that are weak from under-use are prone to strain. A nutritious diet will help your bone, muscle, and nerve health as well. Begin any new exercise program slowly; avoid running for a mile if you are not in shape to do so. Instead, begin a walking program and work your way up to jogging or running, if your physician approves. Discuss any repetitive movements you make at work or during sports with your physician to avoid a repetitive motion injury. Avoid heavy lifting and poor posture. Maintain a normal body weight and get regular physical exams. Take pain as a warning and stop your activity; see your physician if pain continues or grows worse. Following these suggestions should help you reduce your risk of injury.