Getting spine surgery is a big decision for many people who suffer from back pain. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases recommends that back surgery should only be an option if all other treatments have not worked. However, for some people, the reward is greater than the risk because surgery will relieve their pain and improve their quality of life. However, you should be fully informed about your condition, the available treatment options, and the procedure your doctor recommends. Make sure you do these five things before you have spine surgery.
1. Collect Information
Your healthcare team is a great resource to tap into before spine surgery. They’ll know the ins-and-outs of the procedure and help you understand what’s going to happen. However, you have to know what to ask the doctors, nurses, and other staff to get the information that is valuable to you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when your health is at stake. During your pre-op appointments, the surgeon or another member of the team will probably ask if you have any questions several times. Don’t waste that opportunity. Because it’s easy to forget everything you want to ask about, make a list of questions to bring to your appointments and make sure you get all the answers before you leave.
You can also do a little bit of research yourself. Find out about the specific surgery you’re having and learn more about the process. There may be articles to read about your condition and the surgery you’re getting. However, it’s always important to remember not to believe everything you read online. Stick to reliable sources like medical associations or reputable clinical research organizations. And always keep in mind, a qualified doctor should be your primary source of information. This could include a second opinion from another physician, as we’ll explore later.
2. Know the Risks
All surgery carries some level of risk and some back surgeries have a higher risk level than others. Because the nervous system is so close to the spine, risks of complications may be higher. Consider finding out about the success rates of the spine surgery you are a candidate for.
3. Set Realistic Expectations
Some people expect surgery to be a magic bullet that fixes all of their problems. However, even highly successful surgeries require some time and effort to be effective. Your doctor can give you an idea of what kind of results to expect as far as pain relief goes. Ask if you’ll permanently lose mobility flexibility after the procedure. It’s best to have all of these facts beforehand.
One thing a lot of people find useful is hearing from someone who has already had the procedure. There are many online communities for people with all kinds of medical issues, including back problems. Many members may have had the procedure you’re getting and can offer insight. Depending on your condition or injury, there may be a local support group. Just remember to keep in mind that individual experiences vary and what other people say isn’t necessarily gospel.
4. Find Out What to Expect During Recovery
Recovery from back surgery can vary widely based on the type of procedure. Minimally invasive procedures typically require less recovery time than traditional open procedures. Certain treatments are more painful to recover from, so you need to be aware of what pain management options are available. Some surgeries may require more extensive physical therapy during recovery. Talk to your care team about what you can expect during your recovery period:
- How long will recovery take?
- When can you go back to work?
- How much pain will you be in?
- What can be done to manage the pain?
- How much physical therapy will you need?
Again, it goes back to asking the right questions to make sure you get all the information you need.
5. Get a Second Opinion
Before you have spine surgery, you need to be certain of your diagnosis. You should also feel confident about the treatment plan you have made with your doctor. This is why it is so valuable to get a second opinion before making big decisions about your health. Having another expert evaluate your condition can shed light on misdiagnoses or reveal alternative treatment options.
Dr. Saint-Louis of SpineRad has 40 years of experience diagnosing and managing spine conditions. You can get a second opinion from Dr. Saint-Louis by uploading your MRIs, CT scans, X-rays, and reports to the SpineRad site. Within two to three business days, you will receive a detailed explanation of Dr. Saint-Louis’ findings. Getting a second opinion has never been so easy.