'Spinal fairy tale' - very human and unique

'Spinal fairy tale' - very human and unique
'Spinal fairy tale' - very human and unique

I see the human spine like a painting - 'multiple paintbrush strokes in each direction with a complex pattern that knows no end or start, with bumps and imperfections that make the painting unique and human'. We are all very human and unique.

A back or neck pain is a symptom with different patterns and diagnoses behind. This is why consultation with a specialist is recommended especially if the pain in spinal region or related 'sciatica like pain' does not improve with simple measures.

Pain or any spine related discomfort are things that often hold us back significantly but are not always something that determine the pursuing of surgery. Hence, we always try to determine the cause and the problem behind the symptoms that have resulted in such an apparent destruction of normality.

Pain eats away at us but often its cause can't be located precisely enough to work on the diagnosis straight away. Effectively no explorative surgery exists for this purpose. Collateral damage is inevitable result of any operation and never welcome.

The health and wellbeing of our patients is and should be the top priority of any doctor: Primum non nocere – Do no harm!

Even though reaching the diagnosis can sometimes be a lengthy process (sometimes annoyingly so!) and involve diagnostic procedures like numerous spinal injections, getting things right first time is more than just a coined term. If all goes well, even a spinal operation can close a chapter we never return to, but bad surgery decisions haunt us for the rest of our lives - paining us and our loved ones.

The first step of this very important journey will always be decision making and should be right from the very beginning! Surgeries can always be done but never 'undone'! They can only be, and very often are!, successful if performed for the right reasons! As patients are not 'lab rodents' there is no place for experiments! On a separate note some will argue that poor rats should not be subjected to either!

Decision about surgery as for the exact cause of the problem is made on the basis of anatomical changes to the spine. There are three different sections of the spine - two of which are the most common areas where the villains in spinal fairy tale reside.

The cervical spine (the neck) has seven vertebrae (spinal bones). The lumbar spine (lower back) has five bones. Both these are very mobile and commonly affected by degenerative or 'wear and tear' changes. These in some people may cause their symptoms turning them patients! It is those symptoms that dictate your need to seek help and sometimes result in surgery.

Unfortunately, we do not possess supernatural healing powers for some of these conditions. Fortunately, the twenty first century medical advances often allow us to return to as much normality as possible through a direct work on the cause.

University of Leeds British Orthopaedic Association Royal College of Surgeons Swansea University NHS Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh