Q: How do I know if surgery is the answer for my back pain?
A: There are a lot of reasons to consider surgery. One of the questions I ask patients routinely is how the pain affects their function and activities. It comes down to their quality of life. You know, someone could have pain, but then say “It really doesn’t affect me” and I’d say, “Maybe it’s not time to think about surgery.”
On the other hand, if pain is limiting your function then surgery may be a consideration. But certainly in the vast majority of cases we would want to try some non-surgical treatments first.
When we consider surgery we need to see something in the MRI or CT scan, so we know it’s something that we can fix. It’s not just a matter of someone having pain so we do the operation — really the procedure, the surgery, needs to be customized to the individual and what their actual problem is. And there are many cases, unfortunately, where surgery doesn’t have a high likelihood of helping their symptoms and we may have to come up with other, alternative treatments.
– Dr. Eric Elowitz, Neurosurgeon
This question was answered during the episode of Spine Time called “Why Is Back Pain So Complicated? The importance of having a multidisciplinary care team” A video of that episode, held on September 2, 2020, is available here on YouTube. To sign up for future episodes of Spine Time, where you can ask questions of our spine specialists, subscribe here.