Ask the Spine Surgeon
August, 2015 - Issue #130

Q: Bad news - I've got a herniated disc. I have all the classic symptoms: neck pain, radiating arm pain, shoulder pain, numbness and tingling in my arms and hands... Worse news - I have a high-pressure job and I can't take a ton of time off work to have surgery. What can I do? I'm in a lot of pain.

I'm very sorry to hear about your discomfort. The good news is that your pain can be entirely alleviated. Each one of my patients have returned to their desired levels of activity post surgery and you can, too. It sounds like you know that, though, and are more concerned with fitting surgery into your busy lifestyle. More on that in a sec - but first, let's catch everyone up on what we're talking about.

The tissues between the bones in your neck are called intervertebral discs. The discs are composed of a soft gel-like center and a tough outer lining. The intervertebral disc creates a joint between each of the bones in the spine that allows them to move. When the outer lining that surrounds a disc tears, the soft center can squeeze out through the opening, creating a herniated disc.

As we age, the discs in our spine can lose their flexibility and elasticity. The ligaments surrounding the discs become brittle and are more easily torn. When a herniated disc occurs, it can put pressure on nearby spinal nerves (radiculopathy) or the spinal cord (myelopathy), causing painful symptoms. The quality and type of pain can vary from dull, aching and difficult to localize to sharp, burning and easy to pinpoint.

Fortunately, there are a variety of treatment options that provide welcome pain relief and keep you active, ranging from spinal fusion to artificial disc replacement. No matter which procedure is best for you, your healing can be much faster than you expect.

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 specialize in minimally-invasive spine surgery to speed healing and get you back to "life" faster. It's achieved by making only the most necessary cuts, leaving as much tissue as possible uninterrupted, choosing access angles that penetrate the least amount of tendon and muscle and ensuring minimal scarring and infection. My infection and complication rates are near zero, much lower than local, regional and national averages, so you shouldn't worry about that slowing down your recovery, either.

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 feel more confident about their recovery.

Once a procedure has been completed, the incisions are sealed with sutures and covered with medical tape. A primary benefit of minimally-invasive spine surgery is the healing process. After a few months, the surgical wounds are hardly noticeable, as compared to a traditional spine surgery with a large, noticeable scar. And, because there's less trauma to the tissue, pain and surgical-site care can be easily managed in the comfort of your home. That means you're in the hospital for less than a day (And you walk out on your own!) - and have a lower bill that reflects your quicker release. Your post-op pain will be dramatically less than in a standard spine surgery and your recovery time could range from as short as a week, compared to the year some patients require to heal from more-invasive spine surgery. You can be back to work in no time!
Call my practice and make an appointment so we can talk further about how to alleviate your pain and get you back to work as quickly as possible.
Kapil Moza MD, FACS
Diplomate, American Board of Neurological Surgery

Dr. Moza's Santa Clarita office is conveniently located in Valencia. 805-497-3622
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