Frequently Asked Questions

New Patients

Och Spine at NewYork-Presbyterian is a highly specialized program dedicated to the treatment of spinal disorders. Unlike other spine care centers, Och Spine at NewYork-Presbyterian has brought together world leaders in the field of spine surgery to offer care for common and complex conditions. Our team of orthopedic spine surgeons, neurosurgeons, physiatrists (rehabilitation medicine doctors), pain management doctors, nurses, physician assistants, and physical and occupational therapists work together to offer patients the most advanced treatment options. Our doctors come are highly specialized within their field; as a result, they often see cases others rarely encounter during their careers. This enables them to identify the specific needs of the patients, which means better outcomes. In developing Och Spine at NewYork-Presbyterian , NewYork-Presbyterian made a significant investment in equipment, which is unparalleled in the New York area and across the nation. We have state-of-the-art imaging, which allows for detailed imaging with low exposure to radiation and uses the most advanced technology to perform minimally invasive and robotic surgery. Many techniques adopted around the world for deformity surgeries were initiated or named after some of our doctors.

To schedule an appointment, please our toll-free number, 212-543-8862.

Yes. Our spine physicians offer telehealth consultations and follow up visits. Through our patient portal, Connect, you can quickly and easily communicate with our doctors from a mobile phone, tablet, or computer to address your spine health faster from the convenience and safety of home. To schedule a video visit, call 646-448-9571.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Och Spine  have established an extensive, science-based plan for the safe re-engagement of our spine patients to deliver the care that they need and deserve. Extensive protocols for COVID-19 screening, testing, population density limitation, and appropriate distancing have been implemented to protect both our patients and staff. Combined with unprecedented cleaning, disinfecting, and sterilization protocols at the numerous 'points of care' — such as the outpatient office/clinic — as well as the operating room, recovery area, and inpatient private rooms, and the continued use of personal protective equipment/hygiene and screened expert medical staff throughout our facilities, we are working to ensure patient health and safety. Also, same-day and ambulatory surgery will be used whenever safely possible. NewYork-Presbyterian Och Spine also offers a suite of digital health services for patients and providers, delivering care and expertise in spinal health and wellness. Through our patient portal, Connect, you can quickly and easily communicate with our doctors from a mobile phone, tablet, or computer to address your spine health faster from the convenience and safety of home. We are committed to providing our patients with the finest care in a manner that best suits their health needs and lifestyle.

Patients can complete paperwork, upload imaging, and send messages to their provider's team through the Connect patient portal. Additionally, we use Connect to host virtual appointments. To schedule a video visit, call 646-448-9571. To learn more about Connect, visit

If you have questions about insurance or charges, please contact the toll-free call center at 212-543-8862.

Your surgeon may request an MRI before your appointment to assess the nature and severity of your condition. However, it is important to note that an MRI is not needed before all visits. For patients with complex spinal deformities, such as scoliosis and kyphosis, your surgeon can often use X-ray imaging and a physical examination to evaluate your condition. Our schedulers and the physician's office staff will be able to help guide you through the appointment process.

After being evaluated by a physician, they may determine it is appropriate to see a physical therapist. Physical therapists can prescribe exercises to strengthen muscles and alleviate pain, promote fitness, and educate patients on recovery and a healthy lifestyle. At Och Spine at NewYork-Presbyterian , many patients are seen by a surgeon and a rehabilitation medicine physician (also known as a physiatrist), in conjunction with a physical therapist.

If you have questions or concerns about your surgery or post-operative care, please contact your physician's office. Our team of doctors works closely with nurses and nurse practitioners who are here to help you through the process.

Neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons specialize in treating spinal tumors. Who you should see depends on the type of tumor. Orthopedic spine surgeons treat tumors in the bony part of the spine. Neurosurgeons treat tumors in the spinal cord as well as the bony part of the spine. Tumors or other conditions affecting the spinal cord and related nerves may cause weakness in the arms and legs, numbness or pins and needles. Tumors of the spine may cause pain or may be painless. Your physician and team will be able to answer all your questions.

General Questions

Sitting for extended periods may cause back pain or contribute to sciatica. Making simple modifications to how you work can make a difference.

  • Practice good posture. When sitting at your desk, place your feet flat on the floor and adjust the chair if you can so that your hips are at or above the level of your knees. Sit up tall so that you maintain the natural curve in your spine without slouching. It is helpful to sit with your back against the chair with your lower back supported.

  • Adjust monitor height and keyboard placement. Your computer monitor should be positioned at eye level whenever possible. This will help you keep your neck in a neutral position with your ears directly over your shoulders. Position the keyboard close enough, so your elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle with your arms supported when typing. If you primarily use a laptop, try using a separate mouse and keyboard so you can raise the screen to eye level.

  • Stand whenever possible. Research shows that standing throughout the day provides relief from painful sitting. Getting up frequently and changing postures is an effective way to relieve pressure on the spine. Consider getting a standing desk if you spend many hours sitting for work.

Many structures in your back can be injured when lifting heavy objects. Lifting incorrectly may strain your back muscles or can cause damage to the intervertebral discs in your back. In general, when lifting, it's crucial to maintain a neutral spine position and bend at the knees to decrease pressure on your back and support more of the weight through your legs. Avoid bending and twisting as you lift a heavy object. A lower back injury can occur if you bend your spine and twist to pick something up.

There are many reasons for back pain, including muscle strain, emotional stress, overuse injuries, pinched nerves, arthritic changes, or other degenerative spine conditions. Many conditions improve with time and conservative care. If you're experiencing radiating pain into your arms or legs, you may have a pinched nerve. This pain may feel like you're being pricked by 'pins and needles or you may have numbness in your limbs. If you experience radiating symptoms coming from the spine, you should contact the Och Spine at NewYork-Presbyterian to schedule a consultation with a spine specialist as soon as possible. Other people with an underlying spinal deformity or scoliosis may feel severe or disabling back pain. It is important to us that you can maintain an active, healthy lifestyle. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should contact the Och Spine at NewYork-Presbyterian to schedule a consultation with a spine specialist.

The nerves in your neck are like the circuit breaker in your house. If the circuit breaker trips, the lights in the kitchen may turn off. In the same way, the nerves in your neck provide signals to your arms and hand. If pressure is applied to the nerve in your neck, it can cause radiating pain in your arm. A pinched nerve in the neck, known as cervical radiculopathy, can cause numbness, tingling, weakness, and altered reflexes.

The nerves in your back provide signals to your legs and feet. If pressure is applied to a nerve in your back, it can cause pain. A pinched nerve in the lower back, called lumbar radiculopathy or sciatica, can cause pain that radiates or spreads down your buttock and the back of one thigh, weakness, and numbness.

Scoliosis is a relatively common condition. In young children, curves in the spine caused by early-onset scoliosis can sometimes self-correct without treatment. As children grow, the shape of the spine can change, which is most commonly called adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Doctors are unsure why people get it, but research shows that it runs in families and is linked to certain genes. Individuals can also develop scoliosis later in life due to a degenerative change in the spine, which is known as degenerative or acquired scoliosis. Those with scoliosis may report experiencing back pain, numbness, weakness, shortness of breath, or trouble walking. Often, patients or family members notice a "hump" or unusual curve in the back before they experience these symptoms. The prospects for patients with scoliosis ranges from mainly good to fair, depending on how early the condition is diagnosed and treated. Treatment options range from conservative therapies like exercise and lifestyle changes to surgery for those with severe cases. At Och Spine at NewYork-Presbyterian, we have physical therapists specialized in the Schroth method, and other non-surgical methods to help you optimize function and improve the spinal curve. If surgery is required, our surgeons are internationally renowned in the treatment of scoliosis surgery for adults and children. Their extensive training and experience enable them to correct spinal deformity and pain relief that other surgeons with less experience may not be able to offer to patients.

Surgery is typically recommended if the curve of the spine is getting worse or preventing you from performing important activities in your life. For children, if the condition is impeding growth and development or effecting breathing, surgery may be necessary. For adults, if the condition interferes with your living a productive life, having normal breathing function or is causing significant pain, surgery may be considered.

Treatment & Recovery

Minimally invasive spine surgery may be performed to relieve pressure on a spinal nerve or stabilize the vertebral bones and spinal joints. At Och Spine at NewYork-Presbyterian, we have state-of-the-art equipment and training, so we can use a minimally invasive approach to treat various spinal conditions, including lumbar disc herniation, lumbar stenosis, and sciatica. Some of our advanced minimally invasive surgical options include:

  • Microdiscectomy – a procedure where a herniated disc is removed to take the pressure off a nerve
  • Spinal decompression – a procedure where ligaments and bone are shaved to remove pressure off the nerves
  • Lumbar spinal fusion – a procedure used to stabilize vertebrae that are causing pain
  • Oblique lateral interbody fusion (OLIF) – a procedure in which the surgeon accesses and repairs the lower spine from the front and side of the body
  • Extreme lateral interbody fusion (XLIF) – a procedure performed through the side of the body
  • Multilevel minimally invasive surgery
  • Robot-assisted spinal fusion

Orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons perform spine surgery. Both specialties are equally qualified to treat spinal conditions involving the nerves and bones of the spinal column. When selecting a spine surgeon, whether choosing an orthopedic surgeon or a neurosurgeon, it's important to find a doctor with expertise in treating conditions of the spine. At Och Spine at NewYork-Presbyterian, our neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons are fellowship-trained, which means they have undergone specialized training in how to treat these spinal conditions effectively.  Our patients have access to medical specialists across hundreds of specialties, so if they experience co-occurring conditions, our doctors can coordinate care to ensure optimal outcomes for patients.

Typically, when a patient presents with a painful condition due to a herniated disc, we recommend non-surgical treatments such as physical therapy and other conservative care management first. If the patient does not improve with physical therapy or has severe pain, we have fellowship-trained non-surgical spine specialists. They can manage the patient with medication and spinal injections. If the patient still doesn't improve, our multidisciplinary staff is well equipped to promptly get you an appointment with one of our expert surgeons. More than 85% of our patients do not require surgery for herniated discs.

For patients with spinal stenosis, we typically start with non-operative treatment options like pain management and epidural injections. Physical therapy is also beneficial for many patients. Our physical therapists can prescribe exercises aimed at increasing the flexibility of the limbs and strengthen the core muscles, which allows those with spinal stenosis to function more normally. In cases where there are degenerative changes of the spine that don't respond to conservative care, our doctors may recommend decompression of the pain generating nerves. This may entail a minimally invasive spinal stenosis surgery or a decompression surgery or a limited spinal fusion in some cases. These procedures enable patients to return to walking and other activities without previous pain and restrictions.

Yes. Most patients with spinal stenosis report pain when they walk before surgery. After surgery, the nerves are no longer compressed, and patients can walk farther without radiating pain.

When conservative care, like physical therapy or pain management, doesn't work, surgery may be beneficial depending on the condition you have. Back pain related to instability, trauma, or deformity will likely be relieved after surgical intervention. But there are conditions where surgical treatment is not appropriate for back pain. You should schedule an appointment with our spine specialists for a comprehensive evaluation.

Surgery is not the only option for treating back or neck pain. Unless the disorder is an emergency issue, the first line of treatment for back and neck pain is physical therapy and lifestyle changes. In general, active patients are less likely to suffer from disabling pain, so it's recommended to exercise as advised by your care team. Other treatment options include manual therapy, exercise, postural training and reeducation, injections like nerve blocks, and complementary medicine.

When prescribing medications to alleviate back and neck pain, we often recommend over-the-counter (OTC), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), naproxen (Aleve), or aspirin. It is important to speak with your doctor about proper dosage for OTC medication or potential interactions with other medicines, as inappropriate usage can cause serious health problems for some.

Many patients do not need to stay in the hospital overnight after surgery. Patients who need to stay overnight are cared for by staff with specialized training who are dedicated to the care of spinal patients. Hospital patients may be moved to the intensive care unit or post-operative floor where they are cared for by physician assistants, nurses, hospitalists, and their surgeon. Patient discharge depends on the type of surgery. Before discharge — whether it's the same day or a week later — patients are seen by a physical therapist who helps them to get moving shortly after the procedure. Additional physical therapy or occupational therapy may be prescribed for patients when they go home. Depending on the type of surgery, some patients are back to their healthy life within days, while recovery for others may take longer. Your doctor and team will discuss with you your recovery plan and help prepare you for your healing journey.

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