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What to Know About Spine Surgery
Scott Beck
/ Categories: Spine

What to Know About Spine Surgery

What can spine surgery help treat?

Spine surgery can help pain related to nerve compression: loss of arm or leg function due to pressure on the spinal cord or pressure on individual nerves that cause shooting pain down the arms or legs.

What types of spine surgeries are there?

There are two main types: decompressions and reconstructions. Decompressions are necessary when there is an overgrown part of a bone or ligament in the spine, or a disc herniation that’s causing pressure on the nerves. Surgeons can eliminate that pressure by removing the structure causing pressure on the nerves.

Sometimes, the spine is unstable, or the process of removing a structure during a decompression leaves the spine unstable. This is when a reconstruction would be necessary. A reconstruction requires a metal implant, like a screw or rod, to be placed to help hold the spine in position, along with bone graft to help the spine grow together across segments.

What should patients expect after a spine surgery?

With the spine, recovery can be more complex than simply letting a wound heal. Often, especially with fusions of the spine, you may have to modify your activities for up to a year after surgery. Examples of modified behaviors include avoiding bending, twisting, lifting or anything else that may put excess strain on the spine.

Rehabilitation is a huge component of recovery because you have to retrain your muscles to protect your spine and retrain yourself to use your spine safely. People will have surgery and often have to visit with physical and occupational therapists even when out of the hospital.

Be sure to talk to your primary care physician if you think you are experiencing a condition that makes you a candidate for spine surgery.

Ian Dorward, MD is a neurosurgeon on staff at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Dorward, call 636.928.WELL.

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