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Spine and Back Health

Spinal Problems

05/05/2008

Question:

I am 68 yrs old and was diagonosed 12 years ago with disc degenerative disease, severe spinal stenosis, synovial cyst and a vacuum phenomonon in my spine. It was suggested at that time I have spinal surgery and I opted not to. I am now having severe pain in my lower back with shooting pains which run down the backs of both legs. There are times I cannot pull myself up. Does this mean that now I may not have a choice and surgery is my only recourse?

Answer:

Hello, thank you for your question. The symptoms you are describing suggest that you need to be seen by a capable physician who specializes in evaluation and treatment of spinal problems. You can certainly start by seeing a spine surgeon, but someone needs to do a full neurologic examination and take a thorough history before drawing any conclusions about whether or not you need surgery. You will also need recent (within the last 12 months) imaging tests (usually MRI). Surgery is almost never the "only" option, but it might be the best one for you. That decision is a complicated one, however, that depends on all of the above factors, your age, your overall health, etc. Please see a specialist soon, and good luck.

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Response by:

David J Hart, MD David J Hart, MD
Associate Professor of Neurosurgery
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University