Pain medications, rest, exercises, massages, and even meditation. You’ve tried it all. Still, your back pain and discomfort refuse to go away.
Your doctor has examined you and advised surgery, and you are starting to wonder if spine surgery is a safe option.
The decision to have spine surgery can be challenging, and many stories and myths regarding surgery make it even more difficult.
Before you answer yes or no, learn the truth about the 10 most common myths about spine surgery.
Myth #1: All Spine Surgeries are 'major' surgeries (Wrong)
Although the spine is a large part of the body, that does not mean that all spinal surgeries must be major.
Most Spinal surgeries are minimally invasive, microscopic, or endoscopic, which means the surgeon only makes a small incision. These procedures are generally speedier and need less recuperation time than major surgeries. They also leave less scarring, fewer sutures, less bleeding, and less post-surgical pain.
Myth #2: A spine surgeon will always recommend surgery (Wrong)
90% of patients with back pain or spine problem do not require surgery and your Spine Specialist knows this. His main goal is to provide you with the highest quality of life and the least invasive treatment possible, whether that means surgery or alternative non-surgical options like bed rest, pain-killers, or physical therapy. Surgery is usually advised as a last resort when any delay will cause further deterioration of your condition and cause irreversible spinal cord damage.
Myth #3: I am too old or too young for surgery (Wrong)
Age usually has not much significance when deciding on surgery. There are many instances of Spine surgery on a 95-year-old who went on to live for another 10 years after surgery. There are incidences of major spine surgery on a 4-month-old baby who went on to lead a normal full life.
However, the patient’s pre-operative health conditions such as uncontrolled diabetes, severe heart condition, or renal problems may have some concern to the operating surgeon. Nevertheless, the surgeon’s anesthetist team will do a thorough evaluation of the patient and will give go-ahead only when the patient is completely fit for the surgery. They will also be fully equipped and are more than capable of taking care of any complications during and after surgery.
Myth #4: Spine Surgery is very painful (Wrong)
Most Spine Surgeries are done in general anesthesia where the patient will be sedated and in deep sleep. You will most likely awake surprised that the surgery is over. Pain killers and anesthetics prescribed by your doctor will take away 90% of the pain. The remaining 10% will subside within 3 days after surgery.
Moreover, the pain and sensation nerve supply is less dense in the back compared to other parts of the body. It is safe to say that you will have less pain compared to your pre-operative condition within 5 days after surgery.
Myth #5: You wont be able to walk after Spine Surgery (Wrong)
Your Spine Surgeon will make you walk, climb stairs and use the bathroom within 6 hours (within 12 hours) after your surgery. You need not be dependent on anyone for support or help to make you get up or walk. Within 7 days after surgery, you will be able to walk faster, further, and longer than before.
Myth #6: Spine surgeries have a long and painful recovery period (Wrong)
The recovery period for Spine surgery mainly depends on the condition and the type of surgery performed. People who undergo a Discectomy or Laminectomy can get back to work within 2 weeks after surgery. Neck spine surgery or Lumbar fusion surgeries can usually resume work from 4th week onwards. People who undergo Endoscopic Spine surgery can get back to work in 3 days.
Myth #7: If you undergo Spine Surgery Once, you will require another surgery soon (Wrong)
98% of people who underwent Spine Surgery never required another Spine Surgery in their lifetime. The remaining 2 percent is mainly due to failure to follow the doctor’s advice after surgery (such as smoking, avoiding exercise), injury or accident, and development of a different problem at another level. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle and strictly following the surgeon’s orders, you can easily avoid any complications in the future.
Myth #8: You will be addicted to painkillers after the surgery (Wrong)
Most of the high-dose painkillers (with the least side-effect) will be stopped within 2-3 days after surgery. After that, your doctor will prescribe the basic painkillers that don’t cause addiction. Most often you won’t require painkillers after 2 weeks of the procedure. Your doctor and team will be constantly monitoring your pain-killer dosages to make sure you are comfortable and pain-free.
Myth #9: Spine surgery has a high failure rate (Wrong)
With the recent advances in technology in medicine, Spine surgery has become on of the most successful surgeries. The techniques of Operative microscope and endoscopy (Key-hole camera) have provided the surgeons pinpoint accuracy during surgery which has resulted in smaller incisions, lesser chance of infections, and more successful outcomes. Most spine surgeries have a 95-98% success rate.
Myth #10: Life after Spine Surgery will be restricted (Wrong)
The goal of spinal surgery is to get the patient as close to their pre-problem quality of life as soon as possible. There may be various restrictions on activities depending on the nature of the surgery and the patient’s overall condition. In many circumstances, there will be no restrictions other than extreme strenuous movements that even affect the normal spine. Many athletes, wrestlers, cricket, and football players have undergone spine surgery. They were able to get back to play, continue their career and lead a normal life.
Nothing to fear but fear itself
Most of the complications faced are due to delays in surgery by the patients, due to fear. This is constantly aggravated by the inexperienced opinions of family and friends. We hope the information presented above will assist you in clearing your mind and removing any false beliefs you may have held.
However, the outcome of Spine surgery depends on multiple factors such as the Experience of the Spine Surgeon, the severity and chronicity of the problem, and the health condition of the patient before surgery. Consult with your doctor and talk with the patients who have undergone spine surgery recently. They will be waiting outside your doctor’s room for review or even in the post-surgery ward. This will give you more faith and confidence.
A Word from our Founder
“Growing up in Chennai, India has made me go through many stories and rumors about spine surgery. But after becoming a Spine surgeon, I still see the fear and worry in my patients before surgery. This is equally reciprocated by the happy, grateful smile I receive after the procedure when I make them stand and walk pain-free. My advice to you wherever you are is – Trust your doctor and let go of your fears. I am sure your doctor will take good care of you and give you a pain-free healthy life.”
Consultant Orthopaedic and Spine Surgeon-Specialist