Back Pain

Updated 01 March 2017

How to choose the right back surgeon

Orthopaedic, spinal or neurosurgeon – how do you choose the right back surgeon?


Both orthopaedic and neurosurgeons are trained to do back operations but only neurosurgeons are trained to perform procedures within the spinal cord tissue.

An orthopaedic surgeon focuses on operations to do with spinal defects and other problems with the bones of the back and neck. In complex cases a neurosurgeon and an orthopaedic surgeon will collaborate. Spinal surgeons are trained in both areas and can therefore operate on both bone and spinal cord problems. Spinal surgery is becoming a specialist field.

Choose the best surgeon based on his reputation. Your GP will best advise you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about a surgeon’s training, experience and the focus of his practice – some orthopaedic surgeons are knee or shoulder specialists while others concentrate on back or neck problems. Also make sure the surgeon has explained all the options, including procedures he doesn’t perform himself.

Too many back operations are performed as a result of pressure from manufacturers, doctors and also patients. Always get a second opinion before going ahead.

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Susan qualified as a Physiotherapist in 1990, and completed her master’s degree in Physiotherapy in 2013 at the University of Pretoria. She has a special interest in human biomechanics, as well as the interaction between domestic and work-related ergonomics.

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