Do I Need Spine Surgery?

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Your spine is the central structural support of your skeleton, it facilitates movement and protects your spinal cord. Conditions that affect your spine can be debilitating to a person’s well-being. If you are experiencing symptoms related to your spine or back, it is recommended that you consult with a medical professional, who might refer you to a spinal specialist. 


A specialist can perform a comprehensive evaluation and recommend the most appropriate course of treatment for your individual needs. The specialist will review your medical history, perform a physical examination, and review any diagnostic tests that may have been done. Based on this evaluation, they will provide you with a diagnosis and recommend the appropriate treatment options, which may or may not include surgery. 


What are the non-surgical treatments for spinal conditions?


Spinal surgery will only be an option for treatment if all other, non-surgical treatments have been considered. Non-surgical treatments for spinal conditions vary depending on the specific condition. Physical therapy can be tailored to your individual needs and improve strength, flexibility, and mobility. Medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help reduce inflammation and pain. 


Corticosteroid injections can be delivered directly to the affected area of the spine to reduce inflammation and pain. A chiropractor can perform spinal manipulation techniques to improve alignment and reduce pain. Acupuncture practitioners use needles to stimulate certain points in the body, which may help reduce pain and improve function. Bracing or orthotics can provide support to the affected area of the spine and help improve alignment and reduce pain. 


How effective a non-surgical treatment is, depends on the condition and symptom severity. Once surgery becomes an option for treatment, it will be carefully tailored to the patient’s needs. 


How will I know if I need spinal surgery?


If you are experiencing concerning spinal symptoms or have a history of spinal issues, it is recommended that you seek evaluation from a qualified spinal specialist, who can perform a comprehensive evaluation and recommend the appropriate treatment options, which may or may not include surgery. The following symptoms might be of concern:


  • Pain: Experiencing persistent back or neck pain that does not improve with non-surgical treatments.
  • Numbness or Tingling: Experiencing numbness or tingling sensations in your arms or legs, could indicate a spinal cord or nerve root compression.
  • Loss of sensation or muscle weakness: Weakness in your arms or legs, difficulty walking or moving, or a loss of sensation in your hands or feet, could be a sign of nerve damage.
  • Bladder or bowel dysfunction: Experiencing incontinence or difficulty with bowel or bladder control.
  • Trauma: Suffering a spinal injury due to a fall, accident or other trauma is a serious risk to your health and may require immediate surgical intervention.


What are the indications for spinal surgery?


The term indication in medicine refers to a valid reason for recommending a treatment, test, or procedure based on a sign, symptom, or medical condition. Beyond the symptoms themselves, physical anatomical changes to the vertebral column can also offer valuable insight into various spinal conditions. As a result, spinal surgery may be recommended for a variety of conditions, including:


  • Herniated Disc: When part of an intervertebral disk protrudes from its naturally occurring place, it might press on a nerve, causing pain and other symptoms. Surgery might be recommended to remove the herniation.
  • Spinal Stenosis: When the spinal canal narrows, it puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots. Surgery may be recommended to relieve the pressure and create more space in the spinal canal.
  • Scoliosis: When the spine is curved abnormally, surgery may be recommended to straighten the spine and prevent further curvature.
  • Spinal Trauma: In cases of severe spinal injury or trauma, surgery may be necessary to stabilize the spine and prevent further damage.
  • Spinal Tumors: When a tumour is located in or near the spine, surgery may be recommended to remove the tumour and prevent further damage to the spinal cord.
  • Infections: In cases of spinal infections, surgery may be necessary to remove infected tissue and prevent the infection from spreading.
  • Degenerative disc disease: When discs between vertebrae deteriorate over time, it can lead to pain and other symptoms. There are several surgical options for the treatment of degenerative disc disease, including the removal of a portion or all of the degenerated disc, artificial disc replacement, fusing consecutive vertebrae or the implantation of a device to stabilise the spine.


Who will decide if I get spinal surgery?


The decision to undergo spinal surgery is typically made by a team of medical professionals, including a spinal specialist, the patient's primary care physician, and other healthcare providers involved in the patient's care, as well as the patient themselves. The medical team will evaluate the patient's symptoms, medical histories, and diagnostic test results, such as imaging studies or nerve conduction tests, to determine the most appropriate course of treatment.


The medical team will provide the patient with information about the surgical procedure, expected outcomes, potential risks and complications, and non-surgical alternatives, such as physical therapy or medication.




The decision to undergo spinal surgery is usually based on the severity of symptoms, the specific condition affecting the spine, and the potential benefits and risks of surgery. Spinal surgery is typically considered after non-surgical treatments, such as medication, physical therapy, and injections, have been tried without success. The decision to undergo spinal surgery is a collaborative effort between the medical team and the patient. The medical team will provide guidance and recommendations based on the patient's individual needs and circumstances, but the final decision is ultimately up to the patient.

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