Ask the Spine Surgeon
November, 2014 - Issue #121
Q: I've had debilitating back pain since 2012, when I fell from a ladder while putting up Christmas lights. I experienced moderate improvements with physical therapy, injections, pain meds and chiropractic manipulations, but those just "take the edge off" or aren't a long-term solution. My doctor says that the next step is surgery, but I'll be honest - I'm scared to death. My uncle had back surgery when I was a kid, and he was in bed for two months afterwards. And then it didn't even work! I'm nervous that I'll be in the same boat.

I understand your concerns - and I'm happy to tell you that you can put your mind at ease. Spine surgery used to be much more invasive and recovery times were painfully slow.

Because you have exhausted the most conservative treatments, your doctor is probably correct: surgery should be in your future. What I want you to understand, though, is that this news does not have to be met with trepidation. No one likes the idea of surgery, but when you focus on what you will gain - your mobility, a pain-free lifestyle, days free from pills and medical appointments - the benefits greatly outweigh your desire to delay the inevitable.

There are even more reasons to relax. I can only speak to my practice, so this data can't always be cross applied to other surgeons, but you should know:

• substantially less-invasive methods mean that my patients usually go home the
same day of their surgery

• post-op infection rates are nearly zero

• patient recovery time is faster than ever - most are up and moving the day after
surgery, returning to normal practices within a week or two

Even if your case requires an artificial disc replacement - an effective alternative to spinal fusion - you'll be able to return to your previous levels of activity, as each of my patients have without exception. I can tell you that the lack of bone grafts, metal plates and screws make these prosthetic devices, which are inserted between the vertebrae to take the place of your own spinal disc, a medical marvel. While your uncle's surgery may not have "worked," this treatment preserves mobility and, time and again, have been lauded as the pain-free answer to compacted or damaged discs.

I encourage you to talk to your doctor about choosing a spine surgeon who specializes in the least-invasive surgical methods available. We're out there! I've spent over a decade mastering and innovating techniques and technologies that can significantly reduce incision size, the need for muscle stripping and soft-tissue retraction. You should also try to find a surgeon who has a policy of meeting with their patients themselves each time they visit the office. It's probably one of the only things that's "old fashioned" about my practice, but I've found that it really helps patients reduce their anxiety.

Because you are already very anxious about this process, I encourage you to visit sites like and Research your spine surgeon. If he or she is exceptional at what they do (And, from the patient-submitted reviews, you'll know if they aren't!), you'll find numerous unsolicited reactions from people who've already had surgery. Reading up on their positive outcomes - and noting a distinct lack of horror stories - should also help you stay positive and feel confident that a life without pain can - and should! - be in your future.

Wishing you the best,

Dr. Moza
Dr. Moza's Santa Clarita office is conveniently located on Lyons Avenue.
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