If you feel the dull ache, sudden twinge, or throbbing soreness of back pain, you are not alone. Back pain is a common medical problem that affects 8 out of 10 people at some point in their lives. Back pain usually goes away on its own. But if it doesn’t, you may be a candidate for back surgery if other methods of treatment are not successful.
Back pain can occur for numerous different reasons. Trauma, aging, incorrect body mechanics, or normal wear and tear can all injure the spine. Back pain usually responds to nonsurgical treatment, such as anti-inflammatory medicine, ice, heat, massage or physical therapy. Most people get better in four to six weeks. Surgery may be considered only when nonsurgical options have not been successful after six months to a year.
“The type of surgery to treat back pain will depend on the nature of the injury. Some types of back pain cannot be treated, even with surgery. Conditions that may require surgery include scoliosis (curvature of the spine), kyphosis (humpback deformity), spondylolisthesis (segment of the spine slips forward), spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal), radiculopathy (herniated disk causes nerve irritation and inflammation), or degenerative disk disease,” stated Jeffrey Knapp, MD, spine surgeon at Frye.
Spinal fusion involves fusing together two vertebrae (bones) in the spine. This procedure can help relieve pain by eliminating painful motion between vertebrae and providing stability. A bone graft is typically used to help the bones fuse together; screws or rods may be inserted to keep the spine stable while healing. The procedure can be performed though the abdomen, side, back or a combination. Full recovery may take a year or longer.
A diskectomy may be done to remove the herniated part of a disk to relieve pressure on a nerve that is causing irritation or inflammation. This procedure often involves removing most or part of the back portion of the vertebra to access the ruptured disk.
When nerve pressure caused by spinal stenosis is causing pain, the bone overlying the spinal canal can be removed during a surgical procedure called a laminectomy. This enlarges the spinal canal and reduces pain.
Vertebroplasty is another form of back surgery that is done to help stabilize fractures and relieve pain. This procedure involves injecting bone cement into compressed vertebrae.
Disc replacement may be necessary in cases when a disk that has degenerated or been injured must be replaced with artificial parts, which is similar to a hip or knee replacement. This procedure may be a treatment alternative to spinal fusion to allow the spinal segment to retain some degree of flexibility while maintaining more normal motion.
As with any surgery, it is important to weigh all your options or even get a second opinion. To prevent persistent back problems, exercise to keep the muscles in your back and abdomen strong and flexible, lift heavy items properly with your legs, maintain a healthy weight, don’t smoke and have good posture.
For more information about surgical options for back pain, talk with your doctor or call the Frye Physician Referral Line at 1-828-315-3391 for a free referral to a spine surgeon near you.