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6 Commonly asked back pain and spine surgery questions

Posted on November 17, 2022

In this series of videos, board-certified spine surgeon, Dr. Philip York, answers commonly asked questions that patients have about back pain and spine surgery.

How do I know if my back pain is serious?

There are a few things to consider:
• How long has it been going on?
• What’s the severity of the pain?
• Symptoms that could be concerning: radiating pain, weakness in the legs, or losing functions in your daily life.

How serious is spine surgery?

Spine surgery should never be taken lightly, but some surgeries are more routine than others. Your spine is a big part of your body, and Panorama’s spine surgeons have extensive experience and training to help take care of you.

What are common reasons for back pain?

Back pain is one of the most common reasons that people see physicians. There are a wide variety of reasons we see people for back pain:
• Chronic pain
• Degenerative arthritic conditions
• Injuries from skiing, mountain biking, and other Colorado outdoor activities
• Everyday movements such as picking up a child or a heavy suitcase unsupported
• Pinched Nerve
• Bulging Disc

What does recovery from spine surgery look like? 

There are multiple factors to consider when discussing recovery:
• Every single patient is different, and the exact same procedure would affect each person differently. • Minimally invasive spine procedures typically have faster recovery times.
• Major surgeries can be more intense and would likely require more pain medication.

Is spine surgery your first recommendation?

The vast majority of the time, spine surgery is not the first recommendation. For most conditions, Dr. York suggests pursuing conservative measures such as physical therapy or injections before exploring surgery. Some conditions, such as a spinal cord issue or weakness, that should be addressed before the patient begins to experience long-term loss of function.

What conditions require spine surgery? 

For most conditions, Dr. York recommends that patients pursue conservative measures first, such as injections or physical therapy. However, if the the patient is experiencing severe debilitating pain, concerning weakness, or they’ve exhausted every other method, then it’s time to talk about surgery.

Here are some conditions that likely will improve with conservative measures, but could require surgery if they don’t improve.
• Pinched Nerve
• Disc herniation
• Stenosis (a narrowing around all the nerves in the back).
• Arthritic conditions
• Scoliosis

Dr. York is a board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic spine surgeon at Panorama Orthopedics & Spine, specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of spinal disorders. He treats patients in the Denver area, including Westminster and Centennial, as well as patients at our Frisco location in Summit County.