How to Approach Back Pain

How to Approach Back Pain


Most of us experience acute low back pain at some point in our lives. While these episodes can be extremely painful and cause significant disruption in our daily lives, most episodes of low back pain will get better with time (about 2 to 12 weeks) without surgical intervention.

Intense back pain that doesn't respond to conventional treatment can stop you from enjoying your life and hinder your ability to complete day-to-day tasks. At Dr. Benjamin Cohen’s practice, many of our patients receive a consult on their back pain to evaluate whether their back pain is caused by an underlying condition that requires surgical intervention. Before you seek professional help, here are 7 considerations that can help you understand if and when it is appropriate to see a spine surgeon.

Surgery performed by spinal surgeons today is far more precise than in the past. New technologies and techniques allow neurosurgeons to perform surgery with the least invasive procedures, usually called Minimally Invasive Surgery. These techniques use special instruments to create the tiniest incisions needed to access your problem area. Many surgeons also use sophisticated 3D imaging technology to visualize inside your spine. This adds an extra layer of safety and accuracy.


7 Things to Consider Before Seeing a Spine Surgeon

1. Many patients with lower back pain wonder if they will need back surgery, and if and when they should consult a spine surgeon (an orthopedic spine surgeon or neurosurgeon who specializes in spine surgery). For most instances of low back pain, it’s advisable to start off with a physical exam by the family doctor (primary care physician) and/or from a chiropractor before seeing a spine surgeon. They may prescribe physical therapy and/or anti-inflammatory medication. Both of these can be helpful.

2. Neurosurgical spine care addresses issues that other treatments cannot solve. It is easy to get frustrated when you have back or neck pain. Not only is the pain itself irritating, but it can be quite a lengthy process to ascertain the source of the pain. When you experience pain that is severe or even debilitating and your doctors are unable to discern the source of or the reason for your pain, it may be due to a neurological issue. In this case, an expert neuro-spinal surgeon would be able to help you.

3. If your pain has not responded to conventional treatment (usually after 6 weeks), it may be time to see a spine surgeon. Usually an MRI is helpful at this point to better access the cause of the pain.

4. If the pain travels down one or both legs and is associated with numbness or weakness it is advisable to see a neurosurgeon.

5. Back pain associated with a fever or chills may be a warning sign of an infection in the spine.

6. Severe back pain in a patient that has cancer may be a sign of involvement in the spine.

7. Most people think of spine surgeons as doctors performing complex and dangerous surgeries. While it’s true that spinal surgeons can perform complicated surgical procedures, conservative, non-surgical options are almost always explored first.

Diagnosing your condition and coming up with a treatment plan that is progressive in nature is typical with most neurosurgeons. Surgery is not possible or indicated for every patient who has severe back pain, so an in-depth consultation with a qualified neuro-spinal surgeon is needed. If you want to know whether you are a good candidate for spine surgery, you should get a consultation as soon as you can. Deciding whether or not to have surgery--any surgery--is a difficult decision. Your back surgeon will work with you to determine the best treatment plans for your condition to achieve the best outcomes possible for you.

Visit for more information or call 516-246-5008 to set your appointment and Get your life back™.

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