According to data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), more than $30 million is spent on back surgery each year in the U.S., and about a half million men and women undergo surgery each year just for lower back problems. That doesn’t include the surgeries that are performed for problems in the mid and upper regions of the back or the neck.
While today’s minimally invasive surgical techniques generally mean fewer complications and speedier recovery, it’s not unusual to feel anxious or concerned about undergoing a surgical procedure. If you’re facing back surgery, the following list of questions can help you understand and feel more confident about your procedure and develop more realistic expectations for your recovery:
- Why is this surgery being recommended?
- What does the procedure entail? How long will it take?
- What improvements may I expect as a result of the procedure?
- What would (or might) happen if I decide not to have surgery or I decide to postpone it?
- What are the potential risks or side effects of the surgery you’re recommending?
- How long will I remain in the hospital?
- How long is the recovery period?
- What restrictions will be in place during recovery? How long will it be before I can bathe? Lift items? Drive? Walk? Have sex? Return to work or school?
- Will I need to use special equipment like a cane or brace following surgery?
- Will I need help once I get home or can I care for myself?
- Will I need physical therapy after surgery?
- Will I have pain following surgery? If yes, for how long and will I be provided pain medication? Do the medications have side effects?
Consider this list a jumping-off point to help you develop your own set of questions to take to your next doctor’s visit. Remember: Communication between you and your healthcare provider is an important part in helping you get the treatment you need to feel better faster.