Your back has been hurting for weeks. Is it time to schedule surgery?
That depends. Doctors generally advise a conservative approach first. That’s because surgery doesn’t always help, it comes with some risk, and you’ll have to go through a possibly painful recovery period afterward.
Experts say back pain usually gets better without surgery within three months. In the meantime, there are lots of less invasive things to try first, such as physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, hot and cold packs, and acupuncture.
If time and alternative treatments aren’t lessening the pain, it may be time to see a surgeon.
Types of back surgery
Although different procedures will be used in different patients and different areas of the spine, here are four general categories of back surgery:
Fusion. In this surgery, two vertebrae are fused together. This procedure may be recommended to help stabilize a spinal fracture or prevent vertebrae that from rubbing against each other, which can happen when disks are damaged.
Laminectomy. Your doctor may recommend this surgery if you have spinal stenosis, a condition in which bone spurs grow on the spine. This bone overgrowth narrows the amount of space available for the nerves in the spine. In addition to back pain, spinal stenosis can cause numbness and weakness in the legs. A laminectomy will remove bone and ligaments, creating more space in the spinal canal and relieving pressure on the nerves.
Discectomy. Back pain is often caused by a problem with the disks, the rubbery cushions that lie between the vertebrae. Sometimes they bulge or rupture, irritating nearby nerves. During a discectomy, your surgeon will remove the damaged part of a disk.
Artificial disks. In this procedure, your surgeon will replace a damaged disk with an artificial disk. Not everyone is a good candidate for this surgery. This may be an option if you don’t have bone spurs or other spinal deterioration.
Success rates tend to be higher for laminectomy and discectomy than for fusion. If you have any doubts about whether surgery is the right choice for you, don’t hesitate to get a second opinion.
When surgery is definitely needed
There are times when surgery is absolutely required. If spinal compression has caused you to lose bowel or bladder control, you need to seek help immediately to avoid the risk of paralysis and permanent loss of bowel and bladder control.
Surgery may also be required if you have:
- A tumor on your backbone or spinal cord.
- A broken bone in your back.
- A spinal infection.
The doctors at NeuroMicroSpine are happy to consult with you about whether surgery is the right option for you.
For more information or to make an appointment with the doctors at NeuroMicroSpine, please call (850) 934-7545 or click here to request an appointment. We hope to see you soon!
The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.