What Do Spine Surgeons Do?

December 27th, 2022 Becki Andrus
What Do Spine Surgeons Do?

When you are experiencing back pain, it’s best to visit a spine specialist instead of a general physician. Spine surgeons are medical experts who specialize in diagnosing and treating various conditions that affect the spine.

At Orthopedic Associates, we have a full team of back experts to help with your unique concerns. For more information about available treatments, reach out to us at your convenience to book a consultation. We are always here to assist!

Educational Requirements for Spine Surgeons

Since spine surgeons are medical doctors, they must complete either a D.O. or M.D. Both of these degrees require specific certifications and training after medical school for the doctor to receive a specialization in spine surgery.

Spine surgeons must first complete medical school, then move on to graduate from an approved residency program. Next, a minimum of a year fellowship is required, with training focused on spine surgery specifically.

Sometimes, doctors specialize in neurological surgery or orthopedic surgery, then continue with a subspeciality in spinal surgery.

What Conditions Can a Spine Surgeon Treat?

Spinal specialists have experience working with many different types of back conditions and treatment plans. Each patient receives personalized attention and a customized treatment plan to ensure the optimal outcome and fastest recovery.

A variety of spine conditions can be addressed when you visit a spine surgeon.

  • Nerve problems
  • Fractures
  • Disk herniations
  • Spinal stenosis
  • And more

As the spine surgeon determines the diagnosis and treatment plan, it’s also important to identify the root cause.

  • Trauma: An accident or injury that causes damage to the bones or soft tissues. Depending on the injury, surgery might be required to alleviate pain and facilitate recovery. Examples of back trauma include car accidents, sports injuries, or improper lifting that hurts the back.
  • Degeneration: If the condition is degenerative, then it means that the structures in the back are gradually breaking down or deteriorating over time. For example, aging or general wear-and-tear fall into this category. Examples of these conditions include ruptured disks, herniated disks, spinal stenosis, arthritis, and degenerative disk disease.
  • Congenital: A congenital spine condition means the problem was present at birth. Or, there might have been a genetic weakness that flares up due to trauma or an injury to the spine. Examples of congenital back conditions include scoliosis, lordosis, kyphosis, and other types of spinal deformities.
  • Disease: Sometimes, the disease can cause a breakdown in the back. For example, an autoimmune condition can result in back pain. Or the tumor can put pressure on spinal nerves and cause pain.

Treatments Available from Spine Surgeons: Surgical and on-Surgical

Consulting with a spine surgeon doesn’t mean you must schedule a surgery appointment. At Orthopedic Associates, our goal is to minimize the need for surgery whenever possible. We always prioritize non-surgical treatments first, then consider surgery if the patient isn’t experiencing relief.

When you schedule a consultation, rest assured, knowing that our team takes the time to understand your symptoms and identify an accurate diagnosis. Then, we have the necessary information to create an effective treatment plan.

There are a variety of non-surgical spine treatments that might be recommended.

  • Physical Therapy
  • Injections
  • Electrical Nerve Stimulation
  • Medications
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture

Different types of surgical spine treatments are also available, depending on the root cause and the patient’s unique situation.

Many factors will determine the type of surgery, how the treatment is completed, and the spine surgeon’s approach during the surgery.

Traditional Spine Surgery vs. Modern Technology

Traditionally, spine surgery involves deep, long cuts through the muscles. While the treatments could offer relief, the recovery time was often extended, leaving the patient with long scars.

Today, many advancements in surgical instrumentation and technology make it possible to complete certain back surgeries in a less-invasive way. For example, the spine surgeon might be able to work through small incisions using arthroscopic technology instead of cutting big incisions.

During minimally invasive spine surgery, small incisions are made, then tubular dilators are inserted into these incisions. As a result, the surgeon can access the target area without cutting through muscle tissue. In addition, the muscle is spread apart instead of being cut, so the recovery time is faster since the muscle can close back together after the surgery is over.

Another benefit of modern technology is the use of Image Guidance Technology. A real-time virtual image of your spine is available to the surgeon while the surgery is being completed. As a result, there is a higher likelihood of accuracy during the treatment, which helps to decrease the risk of failure.

Signs You Should Visit a Spine Surgeon

How do you know when it’s necessary to schedule a consultation with a spine surgeon? Consider your symptoms, the length of time you’ve been in pain, and any other factors that affect the severity of your symptoms.

  • Chronic Pain: When you have back pain for 12 weeks or longer, it falls into the category of chronic back pain. Even if you have gone through treatment for the primary cause, the pain is continuing.
  • Disrupted Lifestyle: If the pain is so severe that it is getting in the way of your lifestyle, it might be time to talk to a spinal surgeon. Some patients find that they are unable to complete responsibilities at home and work. Or the pain is disrupting their exercise or hobbies.
  • Nonfunctional: The pain can be so severe that it is hard to get out of bed in the morning. When back pain is left untreated, and it is a chronic condition, some patients find it challenging to face the day.
  • Lack of Stability: Is it hard to walk very far because the pain is so severe? If pain affects your movement and function, then it’s time to talk to a specialist.
  • Range of Motion: Limited range of motion is a sign that you need back pain treatment. Call for a consultation if you are unable to twist sideways, bend over, or stand up straight without experiencing pain.
  • Leg Weakness or Numbness: When the nerves are affected, it can result in weakness or numbness that runs down the legs. Spinal surgery might help with nerve compression or disc herniation.
  • Bladder or Bowel Issues: Nerves that are affected by back pain can also result in bowel or bladder issues. Talk to a spinal specialist immediately if you are also experiencing bowel or bladder problems.

Call Orthopedic Associates for a Consultation

Our team at Orthopedic Associates offers spinal specialists who are available to diagnose your back pain and find an effective treatment. For more information about available services, we invite you to book an appointment or call us at (972) 420-1776.

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