Why You Should Consider Traveling for Spinal Surgery

February 28, 2023


By Nima Salari, M.D. FAAOS
Dr. Salari is a Board-Certified, Fellowship-Trained Orthopedic Spine Surgeon with specialized training in the operative and non-operative treatment of pathologic conditions affecting the spine. He specializes in ultra-minimally invasive endoscopic spine surgery and cervical artificial disc replacement.


Medical tourism is an ideal solution for those seeking more affordable and accessible health care. If you’re facing challenges in obtaining the orthopedic care or surgery you need, you may be able to find the appropriate treatment in another state or country. This guide will explore the benefits of traveling abroad or within a country to another region or state for spinal procedures and surgeries.

What Is Medical Tourism?

Medical tourism is the process of traveling abroad, or regionally within a country to obtain some type of medical services, such as:

  • Cardiac or orthopedic surgery
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Dental care
  • Fertility treatments
  • Cancer therapies
  • Organ or tissue transplantation

People pursue medical tourism for various reasons. For instance, the procedure they need might be more affordable or accessible in another location. They may be looking for a specific treatment or therapy that’s not offered or unapproved in their own country. In some cases, they may want to consult a provider that speaks their language or shares their culture.

You can find many immediate treatment options for orthopedic and spine care in the United States. Canadians, in particular, can benefit from medical tourism to the U.S. 

Statistics show that people in Canada encounter significantly longer wait times for health care than those in other countries. In 2022, patients waited for a median of 48.4 weeks between referral by a general practitioner and receiving treatment.

Reasons to Consider Medical Tourism for Back Surgery

Excessive wait times for orthopedic care are incredibly inconvenient, interrupting work and other normal activities. Patients suffering from pain have a significant decline in quality of life. Many people can’t afford to miss work due to treatment delays for spine surgery. Furthermore, extensive waitlists can put some patients’ lives at risk. Those with critical or surgical needs may not be able to go long periods without receiving care.

For these reasons, traveling overseas is a feasible — and often necessary — solution. Below are six reasons to consider medical tourism for spine surgery.

1. Lower Costs

Saving money is a major benefit of medical tourism. By traveling to another country, many patients can receive high-quality treatments at a fraction of the cost. Additionally, they may be able to obtain insurance coverage for their procedure. Some insurance providers cover medical tourism for urgent situations.

2. Faster Access to Services

Medical tourism can provide fast or immediate access to health care. Patients requiring critical care are typically placed on a priority list. Canadians can experience shorter wait times by traveling to the U.S. for back surgery. 

While many patients in Canada wait several weeks or months to receive medical treatment, the average wait time to see an orthopedic surgeon in the United States Is 16.9 days.

3. Skilled Medical Professionals and Accredited Hospitals

There are several things to consider with medical tourism, but the quality of the provider and care is of the utmost importance. There are many high-quality clinics and doctors in the U.S. and other parts of the world. When choosing a spine surgeon always look at their patient reviews on Google to verify their claimed professional outcomes with their patient’s care satisfaction.

When choosing a hospital or surgical facility look for The Joint Commission (JC) accreditation in the United States and The Joint Commission International (JCI) in other countries.  Joint Commission works through accreditation to promote rigorous standards of care to deliver and improve patient safety and the overall quality of healthcare. These hospitals, surgery centers, and academic centers partner with JC to achieve patient outcomes.

By exploring your options in another country, you can find excellent medical professionals and accredited hospitals.


4. More Comfortable Recovery Environment

When traveling abroad for spine surgery the recovery process can be uncomfortable, lasting from three to five days before being released to travel home. At DISC we have our own state-of-the-art recovery facility called the Arizona Recovery Care Center (ARCC).   

We offer spine surgery patients a private and comfortable on-site overnight recovery experience.  Patients routinely travel to Phoenix, Arizona seeking our expert surgeons at DISC and the post-operative 

care benefits while enjoying a comfortable luxury spa-like recovery experience.  Patients enjoy our staff’s hands-on personalized care and education that better prepares them to transition back home for recovery following surgery.  

5. Better Medical Technology

Medical tourism can allow access to the latest medical technology, providing higher-quality care as a result. For instance, endoscopic spine surgery is among the most innovative procedures to evolve over the past 15 years. As the least invasive surgical spine procedure, it uses a high-definition camera attached to an endoscope to target pain generators and relieve chronic discomfort.

This state-of-the-art technique allows surgeons to operate more precisely and safely. It offers improved results for patients like quicker recovery times, smaller incisions, and lessened post-operative pain and infection risk.

6. Unavailable Procedure Near Your Home

Orthopedic surgery is constantly evolving and becoming more complex. In some instances, patients may be unable to receive advanced surgeries — like spinal fusions — from their local provider. They may lack experience in this procedure, or their philosophies might not align with it. 

If you can’t get the treatment you need due to unavailable technologies or surgeon experience, it’s best to look elsewhere — even if that means going overseas.

Tips for Traveling With Back and Neck Pain

Whether you’re traveling on the road or in the air, finding ways to relieve back and neck pain is essential for a comfortable trip. Here are three tips to keep in mind:

  1. Support your spine: Consider bringing a memory foam pad, neck pillow, ergonomic backrest, neck pillow or air-filled seat cushion to support your spine during travel. If you’re traveling by car, experts recommend adjusting your seat to a 100-degree angle, but you can find one that works for you.
  2. Stretch: Stretching while sitting on a plane can engage the muscles, relieving pain during a lengthy flight. Try rolling your neck, shoulders, and ankles periodically. You can also lean forward or raise your heels repeatedly.
  3. Use hot and cold packs: Alternating between hot and cold therapy can relieve pain during travel.

Why Patients Travel to Desert Institute for Spine Care

If you’re considering medical tourism from Canada or another country, Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona can help you. Below are some qualities that make us a top choice for orthopedic surgery and care:

  • Highly trained surgeons: Our surgeons innovated and developed endoscopic spine surgery and have extensive experience with artificial disc replacements and other complex procedures. Thousands of patients from around the world have consulted us for spine care. We’ve also trained some of the world’s elite spine surgeons, providing educational courses, fellowship programs, and clinical research.
  • Medical tourism program: We can tailor medical travel options to your orthopedic needs. Our team will coordinate every aspect of your treatment. We make it easy to schedule appointments and will work around your schedule for traveling. We also assist with hotel accommodations.
  • Excellent reviews: Our superior service, skilled professionals and a broad array of treatments have earned high favor with our clients. Read some of our patient testimonials to learn about their experiences with our skilled surgeons.

Schedule an Appointment With DISC and Enjoy Life Again

If you’re considering traveling to the U.S. for spine surgery, our compassionate team at DISC is happy to assist you. We treat a range of orthopedic conditions including chronic back painspinal tumorsscoliosis, and more. 

While our surgical techniques range from ultra-minimally invasive to complex minimally invasive spine surgery, we always aim to provide the least invasive treatment option, helping you resume your usual activities as soon as possible. We can customize spine care to any patient in need, whether they’ve traveled from near or far.

Don’t let back pain and other spinal conditions put your life on hold. DISC can help you restore the lifestyle you desire. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for world-class orthopedic care.


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