Did you know that nearly 500,000 people in the US have back surgery each year? While back surgery isn’t the treatment of choice for everyone, there are some cases where it’s necessary and can ultimately improve your life.

If you have chronic back pain or a spinal condition that you just can’t get relief from, it’s natural to wonder if it’s time to consider back surgery. It’s important to learn the key symptoms you need to watch out for, especially if they worsen.

In this guide, you’ll learn about six signs indicating you need to see a spine specialist to assess if back surgery is an option for you.

1. You Have Pain That Radiates to Your Arms and Legs

Your spine consists of bones known as vertebrae, and the spinal cord runs through the center of these vertebrae. There are also nerves that travel between each vertebra and affect different areas of your body.

If these nerves in your lower back become pinched or damaged, you’ll experience radiculopathy or pain that radiates to your arms and legs.

The most common causes of radiculopathy are herniated discs and bone spurs. When your disc herniates, the soft inner layer pushes through the outer layer and presses on the surrounding nerves. You can have pain in either your arms or legs, depending on which nerves it presses on.

Bone spurs form because of osteoarthritis in the spine. Osteoarthritis wears down the cartilage between the bones, and as a result, the bones rub together and form bone spurs.

Surgery for radiculopathy is effective because it relieves the pressure on the nerves. So, if you have constant pain that radiates, it’s time to see a spine surgeon.

2. You Have Constant Back Pain

Has constant back pain become a part of your everyday life? It’s important to realize this isn’t a condition you should have to live with.

Most of the time, back pain is acute, meaning it lasts anywhere from a few days to less than 12 weeks, and there is no loss of function or symptoms that linger.

On the other hand, chronic back pain continues for at least 12 weeks or longer, even after you’ve had treatment for the initial injury. There are different treatment options for back pain that include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Steroid shots
  • Epidural injections
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Lifestyle changes

If you’re still experiencing constant pain despite these treatments, you’ll need to see a spine doctor to discuss surgical options that will give you the back pain relief you need.

3. You’re Experiencing Reduced Mobility

Constant back pain can also really affect your ability to move normally. Chronic back pain often prevents you from taking hikes or playing sports. You may also find it limits your mobility at work, prevents you from doing your job, or affects your ability to work in certain industries.

If you’ve had to change your life completely because of back pain, it’s time to go to a spine center for an evaluation. Back surgery can often reduce your pain, increase your mobility, and give you back control of your life.

4. You Have Numbness or Weakness in Your Legs

Having numbness or weakness in your legs is not a symptom you’ll want to ignore for a long period.

Conditions like spinal stenosis or narrowing of the spine can cause numbness and weakness. Spinal stenosis typically occurs with age, and can happen in any part of your spine but most commonly occurs in your lower back or lumbar area.

If you have lumbar spinal stenosis, you’ll often notice you have trouble walking long distances. You’ll also find that when you lean forward, it relieves some of the pressure you feel in your back.

Usually, you won’t have many symptoms at first, but as the condition worsens, you can develop symptoms like:

  • Constant numbness and weakness in your legs
  • Loss of sensation in your feet
  • Burning pain that runs down into your legs

Numbness and weakness can also be caused by disc herniation, tumors, or infections of the spine. If you have ongoing numbness or weakness in your legs, you’ll need to see a spine doctor for a thorough evaluation of your spine.

5. You Have a Spinal Deformity That’s Progressing

Spinal deformities result from abnormal curvature or rotation of the spine, and the most common spinal deformity in adults is scoliosis.

Scoliosis in adults often results from wear and tear to the back because of age or past back surgeries. You can have a minor curvature that continues to progress over time and eventually causes deterioration to your vertebrae and compresses organs like the lungs.

If you’re already being treated for scoliosis and are feeling worsening symptoms of pain, numbness, weakness, and back stiffness, talk to a spine doctor about your surgical options.

6. You Have a Spinal Fracture

Severe back injuries can result from car accidents, a fall from a significant height, or a sporting event, and many times, a severe back injury results in a spinal fracture.

Usually, automobile accidents cause extension fractures which occur when vertebrae tear apart. You can also get a transverse process fracture where the spine bends or rotates sideways.

Treatment depends on the severity of the fracture, and it often takes up to 12 weeks to heal. You’ll need physical therapy and will need to wear a back brace.

However, sometimes conservative treatments aren’t enough, and you can often have lingering pain, along with numbness and tingling. If you have a spinal fracture, talk to a spine surgeon right away. There are minimally invasive options like laser spine surgery that can fix the damage and speed up the recovery process.

Talk to a Spine Surgeon About Back Surgery Today

While back surgery isn’t for everyone, it’s an option worth considering if other treatment options aren’t effective for you.

If you have back pain affecting the quality of your life, it’s time to talk to a spine doctor about your symptoms. The professionals at The Advanced Spine Center can help.

We’re a multi-specialty spine care facility with board-certified physicians experienced in treating many types of spinal conditions. We offer minimally invasive surgery and conservative therapies and will develop a treatment plan to reduce your pain and improve your life.

Make sure you contact us today to schedule an appointment!