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If you have back or neck pain due to a pinched nerve, you may benefit from a consultation with a spine surgeon to definitively treat your condition. Your surgeon can offer you various treatments for your condition. These treatments may include physical therapy, chiropractic care or injections. Your condition may be so severe that you may require surgery to help you return to your previous level of function.

If your doctor recommends you have spine surgery, you will likely have many questions about the surgery. Understanding spine surgery can be a difficult task, as there are many different facets to surgical procedures for spinal problems.

By taking time to familiarize yourself with different aspects of spine surgery, you can be better prepared for your surgical procedure and can focus on your complete recovery.

Back pain, sciatica or neck and arm pain may be caused by different problems with your spine. These may include:

  • Herniated or bulging discs
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Facet joint arthritis
  • Spondylolisthesis (forward slippage of one spinal bone on another)
  • Vertebral compression fractures

If any of these problems cause back or neck pain that limits your ability to enjoy your normal active lifestyle, you may be a candidate for spine surgery. Meeting with a neurosurgeon can help you decide if surgery is right for you and can help in the process of understanding spine surgery.

Types of Spine Surgery

Just as back pain has various causes, there are different types of surgical procedures that can help correct your problem. Different types of surgeries for back pain may include:

  • Microdiscectomy
  • Laminectomy and discectomy
  • Laminotomy
  • Spinal fusion
  • Kyphoplasty

The type of spinal surgery you require depends upon your specific condition and the type of pathology that is causing your pain and limited mobility. Your surgeon should take the time to help you in understanding spine surgery and why a specific type of procedure is necessary for you.

Along with the different types of surgical procedures for your spine, there are two distinct types of approaches for spine surgery: the standard open procedure and minimally invasive spine surgery.

Most classically trained neurosurgeons prefer to use a standard open approach to spine surgery. During this type of approach, a large incision is made in your back, and your muscles that attach to your spine are dissected. Your surgeon then visualizes your spinal structures, and tools are used to help decompress your spinal nerves and stabilize your spine.

Open spinal procedures typically require a longer recovery time, as it takes time for your muscles to heal after the surgery. The open approach also carries with it an increased risk for infection and increased blood loss during the surgery. For this reason, many patients choose to work with a neurosurgeon who performs minimally invasive spine surgery.

Minimally invasive spine surgery is an innovative approach to spinal surgery. During this type of surgery, your doctor makes tiny incisions in your back near your spine, and specialized instruments are used to visualize your spinal structures and decompress your nerves. The muscles in your back remain intact during minimally invasive spine surgery.

Many patients choose minimally invasive spine surgery as it carries with it decreased risk of blood loss and infection, and sparing of your back muscles means a rapid recovery period. This can allow you to quickly return to your active lifestyle after surgery.

Understanding spine surgery means knowing which procedure and which approach – open or minimally invasive – your neurosurgeon will employ to help you get the best outcome.

Understanding Spine Surgery: Financial Considerations

Of course, any surgery carries with it certain financial and cost variables that should be considered. Factors that may affect the cost of your surgery may include:

  • The type of insurance you carry
  • Your doctor’s use of intraoperative specialists
  • The length of your hospital stay
  • Hospital or facility fees
  • Travel time to and from the surgical center
  • Missed time at work

When considering spine surgery all of these things should be weighed as potential pitfalls that may cause serious financial distress. Working with a spine surgeon whose office has an insurance and financial specialist can help you understand spine surgery and the costs associated with it.

Find the Best Neurosurgeon and Facility

Understanding spine surgery means knowing that you are working with the best neurosurgeon in a top-rated surgical facility. Finding the best surgeon for you may take some time, but the end result may mean a positive experience and outcome with your surgery.

Some steps to finding the best neurosurgeon for your spine surgery include:

  • Asking friends and family members about their spine surgery experience
  • Asking your doctor for a trusted referral
  • Searching the internet for positive reviews of neurosurgeons

The best way to find a neurosurgeon who is right for you is to meet with several. Be sure to ask a lot of questions. Your doctor should take time to listen to your questions and concerns, and he or she should treat you with respect and courtesy while helping you understand your spine surgery.

Preparing for Spine Surgery

When you are scheduled to have spine surgery, you should do certain things to prepare for the procedure. Your doctor’s office may offer a pre-operative session so you can understand your procedure and what to expect. A pre-op educational session should teach you various things, including:

  • The various people involved in your surgery
  • The equipment used in your surgery
  • A virtual or live tour of the surgical center
  • Pre-op exercises to help you prepare for your surgery

Every spine surgeon has different requirements for their patients preparing for surgery. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions closely so you are ready for your surgery.

Recovery after Spine Surgery

Recovery after spine surgery is different for each and every person. Your personal recovery may depend on various factors, including:

  • The amount of damage to your spine before surgery
  • The chronicity of your symptoms
  • The type of surgery performed
  • Your pain level
  • The approach – minimally invasive or open – used during the surgery
  • Your overall health prior to your surgery

In general, you can expect to spend one to three days in the hospital after your surgery, and you should follow up with your doctor soon after the procedure. Most patients are up and about within a week, and many are able to return to sedentary work and activity within two or three weeks of the procedure.

If your work requires heavy lifting or labor, you may be required to wait a few months before returning to work. You may benefit from a work hardening or rehab program to help you return to high-demanding work or activities. Your doctor should act as you guide during your recovery from spine surgery.

Understanding spine surgery – from the pre-operative stages through the recovery – is an important step when facing a surgical procedure for your back or neck pain. By finding a top-rated neurosurgeon and by having the right procedure for your condition, you can be sure to have a positive outcome from surgery. That way you can quickly and safely return to your previous level of function and activity.
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