An evaluation of a neck or back condition entails a complete history and physical, as well as a review of any imaging studies. It is important to correlate a patient's symptoms with their objective findings and imaging abnormalities in order to arrive at an accurate diagnosis. Often times, there are findings on an imaging study that do not correlate with a patient's symptoms, and therefore are considered "incidental". These incidental findings often do not require any specific treatment. Delineating the exact etiology of a patient's symptoms is the most important initial step in the treatment process.
Many neck and back conditions can be treated non-operatively. Suggested modalities may include such things as activity modification, medication, physical therapy, epidural steroid injections, etc. Most spinal conditions are not emergent, and giving your body time to heal itself often resolves many ailments.
Persistent pain and neurologic symptoms that remain despite conservative treatment, and substantially interfere with one's lifestyle, may be amenable to surgical intervention. These may include herniated discs, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis (abnormal slippage of the spine), and spondylosis (arthritis). Nowadays, many spinal surgeries are performed through smaller incisions, which minimize soft tissue trauma, leading to a shorter hospital stays and faster recovery. Active participation in continuing education assures that your spinal surgeon is kept up-to-date on the latest techniques and treatments.