When Should I Consider Having Back Surgery For My Pain?

December 6, 2019 | Spine Surgery

What To Know Before Going Under The Knife

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Back surgery is never the first line of treatment for pain. However, when symptoms don’t respond to less invasive measures, patients may want to consider having back surgery. What kinds of pain are treated with surgery? What questions should people consider before going under the knife?

When the pain won’t go away

People can experience back pain for many reasons. Even a simple wrong twist while lifting a heavy object can leave a person in bed for a few days. But when back pain doesn’t go away, patients should seek treatment with a specialist.

When is pain chronic?

Chronic back pain is defined as lasting for 3 months or longer. The reasons for back pain can include trauma, inflammation, arthritis, osteoporosis, or slipped or ruptured discs. Most commonly, surgery is a treatment option in cases of herniated discs or osteoarthritis.

Slipped discs and discectomy

Slipped discs occur when the rubbery cushioning between the vertebrae of the spine moves out of place. These discs can press on spinal nerves and cause compression and pain. One of the most common surgeries to treat herniated or ruptured discs is a discectomy. This procedure involves the removal of a portion or all of the affected disc to relieve pain and inflammation. In some cases, this removal is accompanied by the implantation of an artificial disc.

Osteoarthritis and spinal fusions

For some people, osteoarthritis can lead to the growth of bone spurs along the spine. Most commonly, this affects the hinge joint of the spine. This condition narrows the space available for nerves to pass through to the spine. In cases of osteoarthritis, a spine surgeon may recommend spinal fusion. In this procedure, the goal is to limit the movement at the painful joint. Depending on the condition, a surgeon may also recommend decompression surgery. To remove bone spurs, the surgeon may also perform a laminectomy.

Minimally invasive options

Any surgery can be daunting for patients. With minimally invasive spine surgery options, patients experience fewer and smaller incisions, faster recovery, and lower risk of infection. Though minimally invasive surgery (MIS) isn’t an option for every single procedure or patient, when possible, MIS can have significant benefits for patients.

Should I have surgery?

In general, back surgery should only be considered when patients have found no success with other treatments. People who experience back pain that is interfering with daily life may be candidates for spine surgery. Patients should speak with a spine surgeon to learn more about back surgery and treatment options for pain.

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Board Certified, Fellowship Trained Spine Surgeon

Dwight S. Tyndall, MD, FAAOS

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