When to See a Spine Surgeon

Many people will experience some form of back pain during their lifetime. In most cases, this pain is muscular in origin and will run its course over time. Most individuals seek advice initially from their primary care doctors or in medical clinics, which is appropriate for most back and neck pain. Some patients may require pain medications, antispasmodics, anti-inflammatory drugs, and physical therapy to overcome pain and immobility.

It is often unclear when to seek help from a spine surgeon. Though spine surgeons are specialists who perform surgery on the spine, many office visits may result in medical treatment – surgery is usually not considered unless conservative options to treat back pain have failed. Conservative measures may include pain medication, anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids (either by mouth or in an injection), physical therapy, and acupuncture.

If your primary care physician or practitioner diagnoses you with a back problem, you should not delay seeking a consultation from a spine surgeon if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Unrelenting pain radiating down an arm or leg
  • Pain that is unrelieved after more than a week of anti-inflammatory medications or steroids
  • Back pain accompanied by fever, chills, night sweats, and weight loss
  • Loss of ability to move an arm or a leg or weakness in a previously functioning limb
  • Inability to control the urinary bladder or bowel function

If you have one or more of these symptoms, please seek consultation from a specialty trained spine surgeon for further evaluation. Learn more about our spine care team