The vast majority of patients with spine problems pertaining to the neck, mid back, and low back rarely come to surgery. Our results of doing surgery for neck and back pain ONLY are not very good.
If you have a pinched nerve and you have burning pain going down your arm or burning pain going down your leg, many times that might respond to surgery. Traditionally, we tried to provide some nonoperative care that may help. Obviously, you need an MRI of your neck or low back to help us complete the diagnosis. The results of surgery for a pinched nerve in the neck giving arm pain or a pinched nerve in the low back giving leg pain can be very, very gratifying. The surgeries tend to be small, the recovery tends to be reasonable, and most patients are pleased with the results of surgery for a pinched nerve.
Rarely, we may do something called a SPINAL fusion for back pain, neck pain, or as part of the operation to take pressure off a pinched nerve. A spinal fusion operation is a bigger surgery, therefore it comes with more risk. The recovery can be a bit longer. Again, given the correct indications, the results of a spinal fusion can be quite pleasing, but the indications for a spinal fusion are quite, quite limited.
Typically, we would sit down and talk for thirty to forty minutes about your clinical situation. We would review the history, the physical examination, the diagnostic studies, and then make sure you have received appropriate nonoperative care. If that has not helped, we would have a long discussion about the actual surgery, recovery process, and expected results. Then we would discuss the risk associated with surgical intervention.