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When Is Back Surgery Worth It? 3 Signs It’s Time for Spine Surgery  

Man sitting on bench holding his hand to his lower back in pain

It’s a dilemma anyone can relate to. You’ve been dealing with back or neck pain for months. You’ve been to the doctor, done physical therapy, even tried a steroid injection. Is surgery the next step? When is back surgery worth it?  

Back Surgery Fears  

Thinking about surgery is scary, especially on your back or spine. You have lots of questions: Will surgery help? How long does it take to recover from spine surgery?  

All those questions bubble up to one big one: When is it time to think about spine surgery?   

We asked UVA Health spine surgeon Juan Sardi, MD, how to tell it’s time to think about surgery. He gave us 3 clear signs to look for.   

1. Your Pain Keeps You From Doing What You Love

“Quality of life” means something different to each of us. It might mean you can sit and watch TV without pain. Or life might not feel complete until you can get back to the sport you love.   

Back or Neck Pain Won’t Go Away? 

If these signs apply to you, our expert spine surgeons can help you find lasting relief. Make an appointment today.  

Spine injury can make it hard to stand for long periods of time or lift heavy objects. Your back pain may stop you from:  

You may manage pain doing these things for a while. But when pain and symptoms keep you from activities you love, it might be time for spine surgery, Sardi says.   

2. You Have a Neurological Deficit

Some back and spine conditions improve with rest or pain relief. But not all.  

“Neurological deficit” is a fancy term for weakness or difficulty using 1 or both arms or legs. This is the result of a spine problem leading to a pinched nerve. It might look like foot drop, where you have trouble lifting your foot to walk. Or it might be difficult to grasp objects with your hand.   

Want to Know Your Treatment Options?

Request our free Spine Treatment Guide for back and neck pain. 

“This type of problem is pretty debilitating and won’t improve without surgery,” Sardi explains. “In fact, this usually gets worse.”  

Left without treatment, this kind of condition can leave a person unable to walk and move with any kind of independence.  

3. Other Treatments Haven't Worked

Many people’s spine problems get better with nonsurgical treatments, like physical therapy or injections. UVA Health offers options that can work for months or even years.  

Unfortunately, these treatments don’t work for everyone.   

“If you’ve tried every other option, but it’s not working, then the possibility of improving outweighs the risks,” Sardi says.   

Does Spine Surgery Work? When Is Back Surgery Worth It?  

Studies show that more than 85% of patients have significant improvement after surgery. “That includes even the most complex spine surgeries,” Sardi says.   

And if you do need surgery, Sardi says UVA Health is your best choice. “You will feel comfortable the moment you set foot in the hospital, in the clinic, or in the OR,” he shares. “You can be assured that you will receive the best treatment possible according to your needs.” 

Tags: spine

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