6 Tell-Tale Signs You Need Spine Surgery

6 Tell-Tale Signs You Need Spine Surgery

Signs You Need Spine Surgery

Back or spine surgery is common for most athletes, and contrary to what most people believe, undergoing spine surgery doesn’t put your athletic career to an end. It will help you to stand back and play again. But it depends on how severe your condition is.

Do You Need Spine Surgery?

For example, the famous golf player, Tiger Woods, had at least five back surgeries, four micro-decompression spine surgeries, and a spinal fusion. Still, after all those surgeries, he was able to have a series of comebacks.

There are many questions and factors to consider before your doctor tells you to undergo spine surgery. Back pain rarely needs surgery and may heal on its own after three months. But if the pain persists for several months, your doctor may require you to undergo surgical treatment.

By this time, your doctor has certainly tried all the possible non-invasive treatments to ease your back pain. However, you may also receive other great benefits than just relieving your pain, such as:

  • Improved physical mobility
  • Improved physical fitness
  • Mood improvement
  • It allows you to get back to work
  • Improved productivity, especially at work
  • You don’t have to use pain-relieving medications
  • It allows you to play your favorite sports again

Also, here are different types of back surgery and their risks:

Spinal Fusion

It is the most common surgery your doctor may have told you, especially if you have chronic and degenerative back pain. During the operation, the surgeon will connect your vertebrae or your spinal bones permanently.

It may limit the movement of your spine, but it won’t restrict your normal activities. In some conditions, but it’s usually rare, vertebrae may not fuse completely. Also, your doctor may not allow you to smoke, as this may likely result in complications and could require you to take another surgery.

Potential risks may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Infection on the affected area
  • Slow healing process on the wounded area
  • Bleeding
  • Injured blood vessels or nerves around the vertebrae


This surgical technique is common for those who are suffering from lumbar spinal stenosis. The surgeon may remove parts of the bone, ligaments, or your entire vertebral bone (lamina) during the operation.

It will relieve the lingering pressure on your spinal cord or nerve roots and may ease the pain or weakness. However, this technique could result in an unstable spine. Because of this, you may be required to have a spinal fusion as well.

Your doctor may only advise this treatment if other options failed to work. Also, you may ask eastidspine.com to discuss the risk and complications of laminectomy.


This surgical technique is used if you have herniated disk or a spinal bone out of position. During the operation, the surgeon will remove all or only the damaged portion of the spinal disk. This technique is highly effective if you’re experiencing pain that radiates to your arms and legs.

The surgeon may perform this method through a big cut or a small hole. This process is called microdiscectomy, which is commonly used for lumbar disk herniation.

Potential risks and complications are:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Spinal fluid leakages
  • Injured blood vessels and nerves around the vertebral column

Artificial Disk Replacement

During this operation, the surgeon will remove the damaged disk and replace it with an artificial one. An artificial disk is usually made up of plastic, metal, or a combination of both. It is a common alternative to spinal fusion and may allow you to continue to move your spine. However, it is not an option for most people, and the new disk could slip if you’re not careful enough.

Some risks and complications you have to watch out for:

  • Infection around the artificial disk
  • Dislocation concerning the artificial disk
  • Loosened or fractured implant
  • Stenosis due to spinal cord breakdown
  • Improper positioning of the artificial disk
  • Blood clots due to decreased activity

So, what are the signs that would require you to have surgery?

1. Decreased Mobility

Have you experienced difficulties when you’re working out or playing your favorite sport? Have you noticed that you can no longer function normally? Your painful spine issues may be stopping you from doing your usual activities.

You need to go to your doctor and talk about your persisting pains to receive a proper diagnosis.

Also, as you get older, your spine tends to grow weaker, exposing you to different spinal conditions.

Furthermore, your doctor may diagnose you from having mild to severe medical conditions, such as:

  • Herniated disks: If you have this on your lower back, you’ll likely experience pain on your thigh, legs, buttocks, or even in some parts of your feet. If you have this on your neck, you’ll feel pain in your shoulders and arms, especially when you cough or sneeze. Most people describe this pain as sharp and burning. Occasionally, some may not show on the onset and may only be seen through imagery.

6 Tell-Tale Signs You Need Spine Surgery

  • Spinal arthritis: If you have this, you’ll likely experience symptoms such as lower back and neck pain, swelling and tenderness of the affected area, weakness of the body, or headaches. You may also feel swelling and stiffness in other parts of your body, especially if you have inflammatory arthritis. Other types of spinal arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and spondyloarthritis.
  • Degenerative disk disease: If you have this, you’re probably experiencing sharp and constant pain in your neck or back, and other signs are pain in the lower back, upper thighs, or buttocks, pain when you sit or move around, and pain when you bend or lift objects. However, you may feel better once you lie down. You may also feel numbness and could make your legs weaker. It means that some of the nerves around the spine have already been affected.
  • Sciatica: It refers to the pain across the sciatic nerve. If you have this, you may experience excruciating pain in your lower spine, buttocks, and back of your leg. Discomfort around the sciatic nerve is also present. Some people diagnosed with sciatica have experienced a burning sensation. Also, prolonged sitting could worsen the situation.
  • Spinal stenosis: Most people who suffer from stenosis are 50 years and older. But that doesn’t put you off the mark. Stenosis could be cervical (neck area) or lumbar (lower back). If you have cervical or lumbar stenosis, you may experience symptoms like numbness and weakness in arms, hands, feet, or legs, problems maintaining balance, and excruciating neck pain.

If you have one of the following conditions and medications seem not to work, your doctor may require you to receive surgical treatment.

2. Poor Quality Of Life

Reduced mobility and back pains may significantly limit you from being physically active. It may stop you from doing the things you love, such as having workouts in the gym or actively participating in your favorite sports.

If you think that your lifestyle is greatly affected by the lingering pains, you may consider this to talk to your doctor and check if you are eligible to receive surgery.

3. Failed Medical Treatments

As much as possible, your doctor would prefer medications to treat the injury instead of having surgery. But this is not always the case. As mentioned above, surgical treatment is and should be the last option of your doctor.

Meaning other medications may have failed or have not improved your condition. You may also see your condition getting worse instead of gradually improving.

4. Worsening Spine Conditions

If you have progressive spine problems, have yourself checked by your doctor and closely monitor your condition. These progressive spine issues may be but are not limited to degenerative disk disease, sciatica, or osteoporosis.

During your visits, your doctor will discuss with you all possible options, including surgery. The doctor will recommend you what’s the best treatment for you and your lifestyle, especially if you are athletic and working out.

5. Damaged Spinal Nerve

It may be the most dangerous condition that could happen to you regarding your spine. A damaged nerve on your spinal canal can make you paralyzed, leaving you permanently disabled. To prevent this from happening, you have to watch out for its possible symptoms, such as numbness of your legs.

Other emergency symptoms include:

  • Excruciating back or neck pain
  • Semi-paralysis or weakness in any part of your body
  • Uncontrollable bladder and bowel movement
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Semi-twisted neck or back

If you’re suffering from these symptoms, call your doctor immediately before your condition gets worse.

6. Deformed Vertebrae

The common spinal deformities are scoliosis and kyphosis. In their early stages, the doctor will only prescribe medications and physical therapy to treat them. But if they get severe, your doctor may advise you to have surgery.

  • Scoliosis: This is an abnormal curvature of the spine and is commonly seen and diagnosed in adolescents. As they grow, the curve worsens. Severe conditions will prevent them from moving easily and can reduce the space within the chest. It makes it difficult for them to breathe, as their lungs fail to function properly.
  • Kyphosis: This is an abnormal forward-curving of the back. It may happen to anyone, but it’s seen usually in older women.


The spine is an essential frame that supports the body. It helps all people perform their daily activities, such as playing sports, weightlifting, or family activities, with ease. If the spine becomes weak, it will be hard for everyone to continue their usual hobbies, affecting their quality of life.

Spine injuries can heal themselves with proper rest from strenuous activities within a week or a month. During this natural healing phase, your doctor may prescribe you medications, such as painkillers, to help reduce the pain.


Photo by Ba Tik from Pexels
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

6 Tell-Tale Signs You Need Spine Surgery