Almost all people will experience an episode of back or neck pain at some point of their lives. These episodes can be mild or could be extremely painful and can disrupt the person’s normal activities. Fortunately, most episodes back or neck pain do get better in time and can be managed through non-surgical care with rest and over the counter medications. But if the pain lasts for more than two weeks and is not responding to over the counter medications, or if there’s shooting pain down the arms or legs, then it’s time to see a spine surgeon for further evaluation.
Below are the signs which indicate it’s may be time to see a spine surgeon:
You Have More Bad Days Than Good
A common misconception about spinal conditions is that the pain is constant and unrelenting and this most likely stems from the use of the word “chronic” when describing pain. For many, their level of pain is a direct result of the level of activity or stress in a given day. The key to determining if a spine surgeon should address this pain is if this pain is debilitating and occurs 3 or more days in a given week.
Your Level of Activity is Diminished
One of the most common traits of those with spinal conditions is what is known as “avoidance behavior”. For instance, many with lower back pain will avoid bending over to pick things up or even tie their shoe in fear that it may cause a sudden episode of pain. The same is true for activities such as working out or social gatherings as the fear of pain becomes a deterrent from living an active life. Instead, many will forego activities of daily living and begin to live a more limited lifestyle.
Weakness, Numbness, Burning or Tingling in the Arms or Legs
At each level of the spine there are nerve roots that exit on either side and each of these nerves controls a motor or sensory function in the body. Those in the cervical spine are associated with upper extremity functions and those in the lumbar spine are associated with lower extremity functions. Weakness, numbness, burning or tingling is often caused by the compression of these nerves and nerves may become compressed for a range of reasons including a disc problem (herniated discs), overgrowth of bone (osteoarthritis), or the narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis). The areas that feel weak, tingle or go numb are often an important indicator of which level of the spine is affected.
Consulting A Spine Surgeon
Another common misconception is that if you see a Spine Surgeon it will inevitably mean that you will have to undergo spine surgery. Fortunately, only a small percent of those who consult a Spine Surgeon will ever need spinal surgery and, in most cases, a Spine Surgeon will recommend a course of Physical Therapy or non-surgical pain main management options. The reason that consulting a Spine Surgeon is so important is so that these Physical Therapy and pain management options can be tailored to your specific condition and lifestyle.
For those suffering from chronic back or neck pain due to conditions such as a Herniated Disc, Spinal Stenosis, Sciatica or Spinal Fracture, the Spine Team at Plymouth Bay Orthopedic Assocaites consists of Physical Therapists, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Specialists and Board Certified Orthopedic Spine Surgeons. For those patients who decide that surgery is the best option, our Board Certified Orthopedic Spine Surgeons utilize the latest advancements in Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Procedures. We have offices in Duxbury and Sandwich and are here to help! Contact us today to schedule a consult.