by Peter Hamlyn
Who Needs To See a Spinal Neurosurgeon?
The main indication that you need to see a spinal surgeon is if your symptoms have not recovered following “conservative management”. The latter might include time, which is a very powerful healer, rest, lifestyle modification, tablets, and physical therapy such as physiotherapy, osteopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture and Pilates.
There are also other more urgent indications, such as progressive numbness, weakness, bowel or bladder malfunction or uncontrollable pain.
Spinal neurosurgeons will happily see patients with spinal or referred pain. The old-fashioned view that back pain and neck pain alone were of no relevance to them and only patients with referred leg pain (sciatica) and arm pain (brachalgia) should see them is inappropriate.
What Does It Involve?
Much as with any consultation, a visit to a spinal neurosurgeon involves a conversation during which the symptoms and the history is discussed. Following this, there will be an examination of the limbs and spine before any available tests are reviewed.
While more tests will often be ordered, the patient should always bring any old records, scans or x-rays along with them. Once the diagnosis is established, treatment can begin.
What Do They Do?
Spinal neurosurgeons investigate, diagnose and treat all conditions of the spine: from fractures, tumours and slipped discs to bad backs, neck aches and sciatica. They will often direct conservative therapy or perform injections. For the more resistant cases, they can perform surgery.
Operations tend to be minimally invasive or keyhole surgery and, wherever possible, will aim to restore and preserve movement.