After months of severe back pain my GP has referred me to a neurosurgeon. Can you please advise what I should expect?
Mr Jake Timothy, Consultant Neurosurgeon, Spire Leeds Hospital
Unfortunately there are many causes of back pain and it is an extremely common nationwide problem. When considering the anatomy of the spine there are various structures that can give rise to back pain, such as the muscles, facet joints, ligaments and the vertebral body. Any one of these structures when diseased can cause the symptoms, which patients describe and present, to family doctors.
Some conditions such as muscular spasm and even sciatica due to disc prolapses can settle usually within 8 weeks. However, when the pain persists after several months, in my opinion, the patient should have an MRI or magnetic resonance imaging scan. This is a fantastic diagnostic device, which shows the anatomical structures in great detail and therefore, can diagnose the majority of causes of back pain. Once a scan has been performed, the cause of back pain and therefore, the treatment can be initiated.
To obtain a scan, patients usually have to be referred to a specialist but private scans are available for a variable fee. Once armed with the scan the specialist can usually diagnose the problem. Treatment includes physiotherapy, osteopathy, chiropractic, pain management and sometimes surgery. Most surgeons would expect patients to have tried other treatments first before surgery.