Almost all people will experience an episode of back or neck pain at some point of their lives. These episodes can be mild or could be extremely painful and can disrupt the person’s normal activities. Fortunately, most episodes of back or neck pain do get better in time and can be managed through non-surgical care with rest and over the counter medications.

But if the pain lasts for more than two weeks and is not responding to over the counter medications, or if there’s shooting pain down the arms or legs, then it’s time to see a spine specialist for further evaluation.

Below are the signs which indicate it may be time to see a spine surgeon:

1. You Have More Bad Days Than Good

A common misconception about spinal conditions is that the pain is constant and unrelenting and this most likely stems from the use of the word “chronic” when describing pain. For many, their level of pain is a direct result of the level of activity or stress in a given day. The key to determining if a specialist should address this pain is if this pain is debilitating and occurs 3 or more days in a given week.

2. Your Level of Activity is Diminished

One of the most common traits of those with spinal conditions is what is known as “avoidance behavior”. For instance, many with lower back pain will avoid bending over to pick things up or even tie their shoe in fear that it may cause a sudden episode of pain. The same is true for activities such as working out or social gatherings as the fear of pain becomes a deterrent from living an active life. Instead, many will forego activities of daily living and begin to live a more limited lifestyle.

3. Weakness, Numbness, Burning or Tingling in the Arms or Legs

At each level of the spine there are nerve roots that exit on either side and each of these nerves control a motor or sensory function in the body. Those in the cervical spine are associated with your arms down to your fingers, and those in the lumbar spine are associated with your legs down to your toes. Weakness, numbness, burning or tingling is often caused by the compression of these nerves. This compression, or pressure, on the nerves can occur for a range of reasons including a disc problem (herniated discs), overgrowth of bone (osteoarthritis), or the narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis). The areas that feel weak, tingle or go numb are often an important indicator of which level of the spine is affected.

Consulting A Spine Surgeon

Another common misconception is that consulting a Spine Surgeon will inevitably mean that you will have to undergo spine surgery. Fortunately, only a small percent of those who consult a Spine Surgeon will ever need spinal surgery and, in most cases, a Spine Surgeon will recommend a course of Physical Therapy or non-surgical pain management options. The reason that consulting a Spine Surgeon is so important is so that these Physical Therapy and pain management options can be tailored to your specific condition and lifestyle.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Patrick Senatus is located on the Upper East Side of NYC and employs a personalized patient-centered approach that prioritizes optimum functional outcome and well-being. Each consultation begins with a comprehensive evaluation by Dr. Senatus designed to create an individualized evidence based treatment plan which includes the patient, family, and collaborating providers.

Following a conservative treatment philosophy, Dr. Senatus offers his patients solutions using the most advanced minimally invasive procedures. His approach is to perform the most effective and least invasive intervention available, specifically tailored to each patient, guided by the principal that surgical options be considered only after all reasonable non-operative therapies have been exhausted. Returning his patients to a functional pain free lifestyle is the ultimate objective.