Understanding Your Options Is Critical To Solving Back Pain
Anyone with back pain knows how it can negatively impact their quality of life. From getting out of bed to putting on socks or shoes, sitting at a desk or standing at the water cooler, the pain is always there. It’s more than frustrating; it’s debilitating.
For many back-pain sufferers, surgery is the best option. For others, though, non-surgical procedures are sufficient to bring relief. But how do you know which option is best for you?
Dr. Michael Gleiber—a board-certified surgeon and Castle Connolly Top Doctor—says this is one of the most important questions anyone with back pain can ask.
“You need to know your options,” he asserts. “It is critical for people with back pain to understand why they’re experiencing pain and how it can be best resolved. Just because your symptoms seem similar to someone else’s does not mean the solution will be the same.”
With that in mind, Dr. Gleiber says the best way to understand the options is to work with a board-certified doctor. “The best doctors understand that complex spinal conditions need individualized care to achieve outstanding results,” he asserts. Board certification is a solid indicator that your doctor has the proven education, experience, and skills to safely and successfully resolve your issue.
To that end, Dr. Gleiber states that doctors should always provide patients with a clear understanding of the various options, not just the procedures that he or she is comfortable performing.
“One of my main goals in treating patients is to demystify some of the spine surgery ‘rumors’ they may have heard online.”
“One of my main goals in treating patients is to demystify some of the spine surgery ‘rumors’ they may have heard online,” he explains. “The truth is that most spine ailments are best treated with non-surgical procedures like medications, physical therapy, stretching, acupuncture, and injections.”
Still, knowing the increasing success of minimally invasive spine surgery, we asked Dr. Gleiber to provide his expert insight about this popular procedure.
To provide context, he first explains that minimally invasive surgery is quite a bit different than traditional spine surgery (frequently referred to as “open” surgery). Open surgery requires the surgeon to make an incision that is approximately 5 to 6 inches long, and the muscles must be cut or retracted to gain access to the spine.
By contrast, minimally invasive spine surgery requires an incision less than an inch long. “During the procedure, surgeons insert special tools called tubular retractors into this small incision—through the skin and soft tissues—all the way down to the spinal column,” Dr. Gleiber explains. The muscles are held aside by the retractor and all operating instruments and fixation devices, such as screws or rods, are inserted through the tubular retractor.
In order to locate the precise placement for the incision and retractor, the surgeon uses a fluoroscope—a tiny camera that displays real-time x-ray images of the patient’s spine on a screen in the operating room.
This minimally invasive approach often results in less bleeding, less pain after surgery, and a shorter hospital stay when compared with open surgery. “Many patients who undergo minimally invasive spine surgery are able to begin physical therapy within hours of the procedure and are often able to return to work and other daily activities sooner than those who undergo open surgery,” Dr. Gleiber says.
Is surgery the right option for you? Or are more conservative methods the better choice? To find out, work with a qualified surgeon who not only understands your unique situation but has your overall health and well-being in mind.