Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), more commonly known as COVID-19, is a calamitous virus currently causing a global pandemic. During the initial outbreak, COVID-19 exposed vulnerabilities in healthcare systems across the United States and the world. Many hospitals and urgent care units faced both staffing and supply shortages due to the enormous volume of patients, staff illnesses, and critical non-COVID care.

Moreover, the Coronavirus-19 (COVID-19) disrupted how spine surgeons across the world normally deliver back and neck care. A recent study predicted that spine surgery volume might not return to pre-pandemic levels for at least another year. Approximately 83.5% of all spine surgeries experienced delays due to the worldwide pandemic. To reduce infectious risk to patients and providers, and conserve essential resources — such as personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, and intensive care (ICU) beds — most states in the U.S. enacted a temporary ban on elective surgery from March through May 2020.

Receiving Spine Care During COVID-19

While the COVID-19 pandemic changed our lives dramatically, back and neck problems will continue to affect many patients. Nearly 80% of adults experience lower back pain at some point during their lifetimes due to common causes like lower back strains, Arthritis, Degenerative Disc Disease, Herniated Disc, Radiculopathy, or Spinal Stenosis.

While physical therapy centers limited in-office visits, many people found exercise routines on the Internet to help relieve basic aches and pains. These routines may include a combination of Pilates, yoga, or cardio workouts. Patients with pulled back or neck muscles probably won’t need to reach out to a spine care provider, as the pain will likely only last a few days. But when painful symptoms, like leg weakness or tingling in an arm, persist for more than a week or two, patients should contact a spine specialist immediately.

How Spine Surgeons Responded to COVID-19

While elective surgery is beginning again in some states, hospitals and spine surgeons scramble to devise an effective way to deliver care in the wake of COVID-19. As the community spread of COVID-19 surges, healthcare providers must prepare for any emergency spine procedures needed on patients with COVID-19.

Spine surgeons worldwide proactively expanded safety protocols to minimize the risk of exposure to the coronavirus and better protect patients. These new safety measures include:

• Advanced pre-screening of all patients, visitors, and staff
• Limitations on visitors and in-office traffic
• Pre-testing for the coronavirus of all patients scheduled for surgery, and rescheduling of patients who tested positive
• Social distancing protocols at all office locations
• Strict mask mandates for all staff, patients, and visitors

Medical teams will continue to make the necessary adjustments to ensure a safe environment for your orthopedic needs.

Telemedicine Services for Optimal Spine Care

Telemedicine may become a more permanent fixture in the orthopedic and spine industry as patients have become accustomed to connecting with their physicians virtually during COVID-19. Spine and neurosurgeons can connect with their patients for consultations, pre-surgery check-ins, or postoperative visits via teleconferencing technology. By continuously evaluating, diagnosing, and treating unique orthopedic conditions from the comfort of home, spine surgeons’ telemedicine services will remain active for patients who prefer or require this service.

Important Details About COVID-19

Coronaviruses refer to a cluster of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases, including SARS and MERS. A newly identified type has caused a recent outbreak of respiratory illness now called COVID-19 that started in China. Common symptoms associated with COVID-19 include:

• Chills
• Cough
• Fever
• Headache
• Loss of taste or smell
• Muscle pain
• Shortness of breath
• Sore throat

There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19. COVID-19 may spread through tiny droplets in the air or when a person touches another person, object, or surface where droplets are present. COVID-19 can be diagnosed with a laboratory test. A person infected with COVID-19 may spread the virus for several days without having any symptoms, but individuals can better prevent transmission by practice physical distancing and remaining 6 feet away from other individuals. Proper hygiene and cleanliness remain paramount to mitigating the spread.

While at home or in the office, remember to clean surfaces such as doors and doorknobs, cabinet handles, bathroom hardware, tabletops, phones, and keyboards regularly with disinfectant. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water. Be mindful to wash your hands after sneezing, blowing your nose, coughing, or using the bathroom, and before preparing or eating food. For more helpful information, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website.

Moving Forward With Spine Care During COVID-19

Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, patients can still receive adequate spine care. By collaborating with patients and family members, a trusted team of board-certified spine surgeons can plan and install individualized treatment services that optimize recovery and facilitate a return to normal physical activities. Moreover, spine care professionals will continue to track the ongoing pandemic and comply with recommendations and instructions from local and state health departments.