Back to Health
Friday 1 July 2016

Most of us will experience spine problems at some point in life, giving rise to neck pain, back pain or a trapped nerve leading to arm or leg pain. A trapped nerve in the spine can be one of the most painful problems you are ever likely to experience. Lower back pain is the most common problem and can occur at any age. There’s often an existing problem that the patient is unaware of. An injury or minor incident can trigger the symptoms. Fortunately, in many instances, the pain may be self-limiting and can rapidly settle spontaneously. In 90% of acute back episodes, the symptoms will settle on their own within six weeks.

However, if you suffer from longer-term (chronic) back pain or nerve entrapment, it could be time to see a specialist. Modern imaging can now regularly diagnose the problem leading to more effective treatments. Non-invasive treatment from a physiotherapist can help you manage your pain, but if this isn’t successful, interventions such as targeted injections or even spinal surgery could be an option.

Duchy Hospital is now able to offer spinal surgery to private patients. Prior to this, spinal surgery was not available in Cornwall and patients had to travel to Plymouth for surgery. Consultant Spinal Surgeon Mr John Fowler joins Duchy Hospital from University Hospital Southampton where he worked since 2008 as a full-time Consultant Spinal Surgeon.

John’s areas of interest include minimal intervention spinal surgery, lumbar and cervical surgery and he provides one of the few endoscopic lumbar disc surgery clinics in the country. He now treats many patients as day cases – the surgery is performed under local anaesthetic and sedation with patients often walking back to their room minus their sciatica. Cervical spine surgery for intractable brachalgia and myelopathy is now a large part of his practice.

John is keen to point out that the management of most spinal conditions is conservative. “I’m firmly of the belief that most patients will settle with the reassurance of an accurate diagnosis and an explanation of the natural history of the problem. But for those patients who don’t settle, modern spinal surgery can be and often is amazing!”