Five things you need to know before having spine surgery

Thinking about spine surgery to relieve your pain? Consider these tips from the orthopedic spine care team at University of Iowa Health Care.

1. Leg pain is the most common reason for spine surgery.

Most of our non-emergency spine operations help people who have sciatic pain, typically felt in the back of the leg and caused by pressure on spinal nerves.

2. It’s OK to be nervous.

Having an operation on your spine is a major decision. But spine surgery can be done safely and efficiently. And University of Iowa Health Care is the home of the most experienced integrated orthopedic spine center in Iowa. This is the place where other doctors send their patients who need complex spine surgery.

3. Spine surgery is a last resort.

That may sound a little scary, but it’s actually good to know. When you choose University of Iowa Health Care for spine care, we don’t automatically recommend surgery. That’s because surgery is not always the best option for everyone. There are alternatives for relieving your pain, such as medication, or the movement therapy and coping skills offered by our Spine Rehabilitation Clinic. Our spine experts are dedicated to helping you find the right choice—surgical or nonsurgical.

4. You don’t have to wait until you’re bed-ridden to consider spine surgery.

Some people think they need to be in debilitating pain before they qualify for spine surgery. That’s not true. Our spine surgeons consider each case individually. Is pain ruining your quality of life? Is it limiting the way you function when you’re at work or when you’re trying to do the things you love to do? Then an operation may be your best option. After spine surgery, many of our patients say, “I wish I had done this sooner.”

5. Yes, recovery is part of the process—but it’s probably not as bad as you think.

Recovery time depends on the operation. For example, if you have a microdiscectomy, a special surgery used to remove a herniated disk, you’ll go home the same day. You’ll need to take it easy for about six weeks, but you won’t be laid up in a hospital bed.

For more complex operations, you might stay in the hospital for a few days. Even then, your pain may go away even quicker than you thought, and you’ll be tempted to resume your normal activities. But you should still be sensible and give your body time to heal completely.

Spine surgery can be the best way to stop the pain and get back your quality of life. The spine care team at University of Iowa Health Care provides personalized, expert care to help you find the best option to make that happen.

The University of Iowa Orthopedic Spine Center difference

Doctors across Iowa send their most challenging spine cases to the University of Iowa Health Care Orthopedic Spine Center. We are Iowa’s only tertiary referral center for spine care. That means physicians know to look to us when their patients need the expertise of the only nationally ranked spine care center in Iowa.

And we continually work to provide even better access to our comprehensive service for every patient, no matter how routine or complex their spine condition is.

Our orthopedic physicians are experienced in diagnosing and treating the full range of spine disorders and injuries, including:

  • Herniated discs
  • Scoliosis
  • Spine fractures
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spinal tumors

And our nurse navigators help guide patients through their journey, from arrival to treatment to recovery.

We also offer clinical trials of promising new techniques and therapies, such as new approaches to post-operative pain management.

And as members of the University of Iowa faculty, our orthopedic physicians are active participants in some of the most advanced research studies in their field. Recent published articles by UI Spine Center doctors have covered topics that include spine surgery outcomes.

Whether you visit our main UI campus in Iowa City or enjoy the free parking and convenient location of our Iowa River Landing clinic just off I-80 in Coralville, you will receive personalized care from the most experienced team of spine experts in the state.

Last reviewed: 
January 2018

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