An average visit

Sydney neurosurgeon Dr Richard Parkinson talks about what people are worried about when they’re visiting the spine specialist.

A visit to a neurosurgeon can be intimidating for anyone. It’s not something you do everyday. If you’re concerned about your spinal health, or you have a back injury or nerve damage and think you may need surgery, you’ll have a lot of preconceptions about what you may see here at iSpine.

I completely understand your concern. Lots of people worry about spinal surgery, and we do know that back in the past it had a somewhat indifferent reputation because spinal surgery historically hasn’t been as successful as some other types of surgery. That’s really changed with minimally invasive surgery, where we can achieve things whilst not causing collateral pain or damage, and that’s really been the main focus with my practice.

The thing that’s really concerning people when they come and see me is number one, can you fix the problem? But equally there’s always that question in the back of their mind is how much is this going to hurt?

That’s the thing that I’ve really tried to work very hard on in my career, which is to minimise both the pain itself, and the concern about how much it’s going to hurt. My goal with most surgeries is to bring the pain down to the point where people could get out of hospital in a day or two, get back to work quickly, rehabilitate themselves, not need as much pain relief and face the surgery and the future with a bit more confidence.

While any type of surgery is important and stressful on the body, the type of operation you’re having will determine how quickly you can get back to your normal life.

So what do I mean when I say “get back to work quickly”? The more keyhole operations like microdisectomies or the small neck operations people will be back to work within a week without any trouble at all as long as it’s an office-based occupation. If they’re involved in heavy lifting or if they’re sports people the rehabilitation is a little slower and more careful, well, I wouldn’t say more careful, it’s a little slower but you know most people would be able to get back pretty close to full function by about a month.

I also know that one of the basic questions, whenever someone is worried about their spine, is “will I be able to walk when this is all over”? I am sure that’s an unasked question but it’s one that I usually address when I am discussing whether or not someone should have surgery. Every now and then some will say, “Is there a chance that I’ll end up paraplegic?” The answer is I’ve never made anyone paraplegic and it’s a very high priority when you’re training in neurosurgery to not do things like that. That would be a catastrophic outcome that can almost always be prevented with proper planning and training. So it’s interesting, it’s a real concern for people but in practical terms, it’s not a real issue.


Dr Parkinson is a highly qualified neurosurgeon with extensive experience in neurosurgery. He has studied under, and worked with leading neurosurgeons in the USA performing ground breaking surgeries. He is also involved in developing educational tools for both surgeons and patients.