Are there any non-surgical alternatives to spinal surgery?

For most patients suffering from a spinal condition, non-surgical treatment is highly effective and, in fact, only a very small number will require a surgical procedure. Broadly, your treatment options are divided into three main approaches.

First, there is medical management of acute or chronic spinal pain through the use of pain medicine and anti-depressants. This is then often combined with steroid injections. The third approach covers non-medication and non-injection treatments and includes the use of physiotherapy, acupuncture and exercise to help alleviate and manage spinal pain.

Physiotherapy can have important benefits in treating acute and chronic spinal conditions. By improving muscle tone and strengthening the core muscles, in particular, the spinal column and abdomen are supported. Physiotherapy can be combined with massage, joint mobilisation, acupuncture, hydrotherapy and heat and cold treatments for optimal results.

Inflammation often lies at the root of many spinal conditions and steroids are a powerful anti-inflammatory. As a result, steroid injections into the joints and nerves are commonly prescribed and we often refer to Pain Management Consultants. These are typically trained anaesthetists who are highly experienced at injected into the spine and surrounding soft tissues.

 

Should you see a neurosurgeon or orthopaedic surgeon for spine surgery?

This is a common question and the answer very much depends on your specific condition. Both orthopaedic surgeons and neurosurgeons perform surgery on the spine but – simplistically – a neurosurgeon operates on the nervous system while an orthopaedic surgeon will treat the bones and joints.

However, many spinal conditions will involve both the spinal cord, or spinal nerve, and the vertebrae or bones in the spine and members of either discipline will treat many of the same conditions.

A neurosurgeon’s training will typically take eight years and they will spend a large proportion of this period focused on brain and spinal surgery. An orthopaedic surgeon’s training is of a similar length of time but will cover the whole musculoskeletal frame and involve performing joint surgery on the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee and foot, as well as the spine. Most orthopaedic surgeons will then specialise in a specific area and will undergo further training.

Key to choosing your surgeon should be researching their experience and expertise, quality of their outcomes, use of the most advanced techniques and, most importantly, whether you feel comfortable and trust your surgeon.