What is Spine Surgery?
Spinal surgery is the subspecialty that uses surgery to restore the normal function of the spine when things go wrong due to trauma, disease, or other disorders. There are many ways that the spine can begin to hurt or lose the ability to move properly, and surgery is not always necessary. However, when surgery is needed, there’s no one more qualified for the job than a spine surgeon.
Spinal surgery can be considered a subspecialty of either orthopedics or neurosurgery. That means that a spine surgeon may take either path to this specific career, training first as either an orthopedist or a neurosurgeon. Orthopedics deals mainly with the structural issues of the back and spine: the bones, muscles, and joints. Neurosurgery deals mainly with issues of the brain, nerves, and spinal cord. So when choosing a spine surgeon, it is sometimes possible that your surgeon’s background will have a bearing on your particular diagnosis. However, in most cases, it doesn’t matter. Either an orthopedist-spine surgeon or a neurosurgeon-spine surgeon can handle the majority of spine surgeries. What is more important is that some spine surgeons specialize in specific areas of the spine, such as lumbar surgery or cervical surgery. In that case, it is important to connect with a surgeon who is experienced with your particular need.
Some of the surgeries performed on the spine include:
Correction of spinal deformities, such as scoliosis
Minimally invasive spine surgery, including decompression surgeries such as discectomy and laminectomy
Balloon kyphoplasty, a procedure done to repair compression fractures in vertebrae
The spine is a very complicated piece of your body’s machinery, and a very necessary part of your movement and function. It holds you up and allows you to move. Having a working spine is important, and having a skilled surgeon when you need spinal surgery is critical.
A chiropractor is a licensed healthcare professional that focuses on restricted movement or inflammation in the joints of the musculoskeletal system that may be putting pressure on the spinal column and nerves. These impingements, as they are known, are thought to affect the health of the entire body. Chiropractors use non-invasive techniques to adjust the restricted joints with the goal of reducing pain and increasing mobility. Chiropractic is generally categorized as alternative or complementary medicine.
Patients may see a chiropractor for any variety of complaint, but most commonly, they seek treatment for back pain, neck pain, headaches, or joint issues. Chiropractors are specially trained to examine the joints, bones, and muscles of the body and to notice misalignment, tenderness, or asymmetry. They also check their patients for range of motion, stability, and muscle tone. Chiropractors are trained in using imaging (such as xrays) and orthopedic or neurologic testing to gain a good understanding of the problems affecting their patients.
When joints have become restricted in their ability to move by injury or inflammation, a chiropractor may perform what is called an adjustment to try and restore motion. When applied to the vertebrae of the spine, this technique is called spinal manipulation. It involves the application of a small amount of force directly to the joint, either by hand or with chiropractic tools (such as a spring-loaded activator). This allows the joint to begin moving freely again, frees up nerve tissues that may have been caught by an inflamed joint, and increases blood flow, all of which encourage healing. When it comes to the spine specifically, the belief is that restoring its structural integrity reduces pressure on surrounding neurological tissues of the spinal column and nerve branches, which reduces pain and improves health.
Chiropractic is one of the fastest growing health specialties in the United States. It can often treat problems with pain and joint mobility effectively, without the use of surgery or medications. Because of this, it continues to gain in popularity.
Orthopedic surgeons, sometimes just called orthopedists, are surgical doctors of the musculoskeletal system. They work to keep your body active and in motion by treating problems with your bones, joints, tendons and muscles. The most frequently treated disorder seen by orthopedic surgeons is osteoarthritis, a common “wear-and-tear” problem where the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones wears down, causing friction and pain. Orthopedic surgeons might also see patients for bone and joint deformities, amputation, infections of the bone and joint, overuse injuries, or nerve compression.
Orthopedic surgeons can order tests such as blood work and x-rays to get a clearer picture of the issue. Depending on the illness or injury, more than one different form of treatment may be used. Treatment may include:
Surgery, such as fusing bones together to increase stability, or replacing a joint
Medication, such as pain medication or steroids to promote healing
Casts, splints, or orthotics (devices such as braces or shoe inserts to support the body)
Physical therapy, a kind of treatment using exercise, stretching, heat, and massage to heal the body
Exercise, stretching, movement, and use of the affected part
Orthopedic surgeons also work to prevent injuries and slow the progression of disease in their patients. They educate patients on ways to prevent future injuries, and they treat illness in order to prevent further damage to bones or joints that may be affected by disease. The goal of an orthopedic surgeon is to help their patients restore movement and regain an active life.
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