Back pain is a common reason people see a healthcare provider. Most back pain resolves within three months of treatment, but sometimes the pain can be chronic and disabling. In such cases, you may discuss surgery with your provider. By the time you sign up for back surgery, Dr. Kamal Woods Dayton will have tried other treatments, including medications, physical therapy, and injections, without good results. There is no guarantee that surgery will offer relief, so it is important to think through it before deciding. Learning as much as possible about back surgery will help you make an informed decision.
What are the benefits of back surgery?
More than a drop in pain, back surgery enables you to be more physically active. Additionally, you don’t need to take as much pain medicine because of the decline in pain levels. You may also find that you are more productive and can return to work.
Spinal fusion is the most common surgery for chronic nonspecific back pain with degenerative changes. For this procedure, the surgeon joins spinal bones (vertebrae), limiting the motion between them and how far your nerves can stretch. The procedure probably won’t limit your activity. Although rare, the bones may not fuse completely. You are more likely to encounter this complication if you are a smoker. If the vertebrae don’t fuse, you may need a second operation to fix the problem.
This procedure involves enlarging the bony hole where a nerve root exits in the spinal canal. Foraminotomy can relieve pain associated with a compressed nerve in the spine. During the operation, the surgeon cuts away bone at the sides of the vertebrae to widen the space where nerves exit the spine. Enlarging the bony hole may relieve pressure on the nerves and ease your pain. However, this procedure can make your spine less stable, like a laminectomy. Therefore, the surgeon can also do a spinal fusion simultaneously, which means more downtime.
Laminectomy involves the removal of bone at the back of the spine to relieve pressure on a spinal nerve and ease pain and weakness. Although this procedure can help alleviate spinal stenosis symptoms, it can make your spine less stable. In that case, you may need spinal fusion. Sometimes surgeons combine laminectomy and spinal fusion.
This procedure removes a herniated disc that presses on a spinal nerve, causing back pain. The surgeon may remove all or part of the disk during this procedure. They may perform the procedure through small incisions (microdiscectomy) or may need to make a big cut in your back. Microdiscectomy has become the standard surgical procedure for lumbar disc herniation since it uses smaller incisions. A discectomy can be part of a larger surgery that includes spinal fusion, laminectomy, or foraminotomy.
The main risk of back surgery is not knowing whether the procedure will alleviate your pain. Therefore, it is best to talk with your surgeon, so they know your health stats and discuss with you what to expect before going to the operating room.
If you have chronic back pain, consult your specialist at Kamal Woods, MD, MBA, FAANS, to know if back surgery is an option.