Our clinic often sees patients who have seen spinal surgeons or orthopedic surgeons who have recommended surgery. Those patients typically are seeking a second opinion or they want to know our thoughts on the necessity of spinal surgeries.
There are a lot of variables that must be taken into account concerning spinal surgery, but I place great emphasis on receiving a proper diagnosis first and foremost. We need to determine if there is a disc problem or something more serious, and to reach that diagnosis, we need to know your symptoms. We check over imaging and any testing that has been performed, as well finding out what type of examinations they have already undergone.
Because I am a chiropractor, much of my treatment involves conservative therapies. Before considering surgery, I will determine what can be accomplished through chiropractic treatment, physical therapy, rehab, exercise or activity modifications. If one or more of these therapies appears to be an option for a patient, we try this for anywhere from one to four weeks to see if there is a positive response. If we fail to see a good response at the end of the designated treatment period, we will most likely refer the patient back to their surgeon.
There are other options available outside the clinic that might not necessarily involve surgery, such as epidural steroid injections, medication management, and activity modifications.
When to Seek a Second Opinion
Although many chiropractors don’t believe in surgery, I am not of that opinion. I believe surgery is a great option under certain circumstances, but I also believe other avenues should be attempted before making a surgical determination. There are some very talented neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons that we work closely with here at Tulsa Spine & Rehab. Quite often patients are referred from these surgeons to the clinic and the end result is that manipulation isn’t a good fit for the patient. Where there are serious disc issues or herniation causing leg pain or sciatic pain, we do not want to start moving that joint around. We prefer to find a way to stabilize their spine and keep them neutral through activity in order to build up the trunk and core. In this regard, it’s important to know what treatments to try and what NOT to try.
If your own surgeon asks questions such as, “How bad do you feel,” or, “How are you feeling now,” this is a good sign and it suggests they are open to conservative treatment before making a final determination that you are a surgery candidate. On the other hand, if they state that you have something pretty nasty and they see no other alternative than surgery for your problem, this is when you might want to consider a second opinion because once you have surgery, there is no going back. There is a lot of research and evidence now concerning failed fusions and spinal surgeries, and your best option is to consider all alternatives available to you before making that final decision to have surgery.