4 Common Misconceptions About Spine Surgery

spine surgery misconceptions

Is the thought of having spine surgery frightening?  There’s a lot of misinformation about spine surgeons and spine surgery. You may have heard things that are completely false:

  • Spine surgery has a high risk of complications.
  • It takes a long time to recover.
  • One surgery leads to another.
  • Spine surgeons always think you need surgery.

Knowledge Is Power

About 80% of adults experience back pain at some time in their lives, but it usually heals on its own in a couple of weeks.

A few people suffer from chronic back pain. In other words, the pain continues for several months without improvement.

A severe case of chronic pain can wreck your quality of life:

  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Limited mobility.
  • Interferes with work.
  • Causes stress and emotional pain.

Usually, non-surgical care helps ease chronic back pain. But if you see no improvement after 12 weeks, it may be time to discuss surgery with your doctor. However, a lot of back pain sufferers are afraid to bring it up, and end up not discussing their surgical options,  because they’ve been fed a lot of misleading ideas.

The best way to defeat false notions about spine surgery is to get the facts. That’s why I want to clear up these 4 common misconceptions about spine surgery.

Misconception #1 – The Risks of Complications After Spine Surgery Are Too High

All surgery has risks of complications. Spine surgery is no different. But there’s no evidence that spine surgery is riskier than others.

In fact, many spine operations have less risk.

Thanks to advances in technology, most spinal procedures are minimally invasive, meaning the surgeon can work through a small incision.

There’s less bleeding than with open surgery.

Less bleeding means there’s less risk for:

  • Blood clots.
  • Shock from a sudden drop in blood pressure.
  • Infection. In a sterile environment, a small wound isn’t likely to pick up germs.

Misconception #2 – Recovery After Spine Surgery Takes Months

Traditional open back surgery can take a long time for recovery, but open surgery is rarely needed.

In most cases, the doctor can perform minimally invasive spine surgery. The tubular retractor makes it possible to perform minimally invasive surgeries that weren’t available before.

During minimally invasive surgery, the surgeon:

  • Makes an incision the size of the retractor.
  • Inserts a guidewire to the problem part of the spine.
  • Places a soft tissue dilator over the guidewire.
  • Places a series of dilators, each stepping up in diameter until it makes a tunnel the size of the retractor.
  • Inserts the tubular retractor.

Tissue dilation means the surgeon doesn’t have to cut into muscle and soft tissue. After making a tunnel to the site of operation the doctor can insert a tiny camera (endoscope) into the incision to guide surgical tools. 

Minimally invasive spine surgery offers some important benefits.

  • No need to cut or remove surrounding muscle tissue.
  • Pushes soft tissue aside.
  • Makes a tunnel to the problem area of the spine.

This offers some clear advantages over traditional open spine surgery:

  • Less pain.  A lot of minimally invasive surgeries only need a local anesthetic.
  • Less bleeding.
  • Speedy recovery.
  • Short hospital stay.
  • Less scarring.

Many surgeries allow you to go home the same day.

In general, while some of the more complex operations, such as lumbar fusion, need a month or more recovery time. The largest percentage of surgeries have recovery times of less than two weeks.

A lumbar fusion is one of the most complex surgeries. Even though recovery time is longer than other procedures, you’re ready to perform physical activities in a short time:

  • Bending, stooping and lifting exercises – 4 weeks.
  • Running, jogging, treadmill exercises – 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Swimming laps – 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Twisting exercises – 8 weeks.
  • High-impact sports or training – 4 to 6 months.

Misconception #3 – If I Have Surgery Once, I’ll Need It Again In The Future

Severe spine injuries might need multiple surgeries. Most people will only need back surgery once.

Spine surgeries have a high success rate – 70% to 90%.

You might need to make some lifestyle changes to ensure that you won’t need another back surgery:

  • Quit smoking
  • Lose weight
  • Perform stretches and strengthening exercises

Misconception #4 – A Spine Specialist Will Always Advise Surgery

If non-surgical treatments have failed to relieve back pain, a spine specialist will likely discuss spine surgery as an option.

At Oasis, we’re devoted to finding the right solution for your back pain. Many of our patients get back pain relief without surgery. 

But if you can’t find comfort by nonsurgical treatments, the experts at Oasis are here to help you learn your options.

Start your diagnosis with our Pain Assessment Tool.

We have 7 locations throughout New Jersey and one in Brooklyn, New York. Find a location near you.