Saving Your Neck

Spine specialists offer solutions

Whether you have pain and numbness in your fingers or just slight neck and back pain, the staff at Inova Fair Oaks Hospital can help you. The doctors and specialists offer high-quality care for spinal  issues including physical medicine, rehabilitation and surgery.

Pain, numbness, tingling and weakness radiating down your extremities are signs of serious spinal issues that could require surgery. “Neck pain in and of itself is not a reason to see a specialist,” says Tushar Patel, MD, spine surgeon at Inova Fair Oaks Hospital. “Most cases will resolve in the first three to four weeks. Once [the pain, numbness and tingling] goes beyond your back or neck, then you should  see a specialist.”

Dr. Patel stresses that people with pain don’t necessarily require surgery. Besides physical therapy and rehabilitation, non-surgical treatments include steroid injections and anti-inflammatory medicine. For those people who experience nerve compression, however, surgery will often improve their standard of living and, according to Dr. Patel, the success rate is high.

The Right Questions

When you need surgery, it’s important  to pick the right doctor. Dr. Patel recommends finding a surgeon who specializes exclusively in spine surgery and who understands the importance of shared decision-making between the patient and surgeon. “You want someone who will explain to you what is going on with you,” he says. “You should be able to state in your own words why the doctor is recommending what he’s recommending.”

Here are some questions to ask when looking for a surgeon:

■ How many of these operations do you do?

■ What is the evidence basis for your recommendations?

■ What are my possible options?

■ What problems would you anticipate running into with this procedure?

■ Am I at a higher risk for any  complications?

■ What is your infection rate?

■ What steps have you taken recently to improve your outcomes?