Physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication, and corticosteroid injections are all options for treating back pain. Back surgery, however, can be an effective and necessary treatment option for people with serious musculoskeletal conditions, nerve compression, and extreme discomfort. Once you’ve tried everything else, a qualified spine surgeon will be able to determine if surgery is right for you.
According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), these conditions may qualify you for back surgery:
A herniated disc occurs when the inner portion of a spinal disc pushes out through the outer ring during a vehicle collision, shifting and compressing nerves. The protruding section may cause numbness, a burning sensation, or weakness throughout your body when it scrapes against nerves.
Discectomy is the most common procedure for lumbar herniated discs. It involves removing the piece of disc that is putting pressure on your nerve root. A disc may have to be removed entirely in some cases. Your surgeon will make an incision in your back or neck to reach the disc.
Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the canal that houses the spinal nerves and cord. There may be a ruptured disc or bone fragment invading the spinal canal, putting pressure on the nerves or cord and resulting in pain.
The surgeon performs a laminectomy and decompression of the spine to alleviate symptoms associated with spinal stenosis. To relieve nerve pressure, the bony walls of the vertebrae and any bone spurs are removed from the spinal column.
Laminoplasty treats only the vertebrae in the neck. Metal hardware spans the gap in the opening part of the spine’s lamina, which creates a hinge that opens up the area within the spinal canal.
Stress fractures can dislocate vertebrae, resulting in spondylolisthesis. The movement of the vertebrae can compress the spinal canal or nerves.
The surgeon may prescribe surgery to relieve nerve compression and stabilize the lumbar spine. Spinal fusion and spinal instrumentation prevent the vertebrae from slipping forward when you are recovering.
A spinal fracture occurs when one or more of the 33 bones that make up your backbone are broken, cracked, or somehow injured. Doctors may use terms such as compression fractures or small cracks or breaks caused by too much pressure to describe back fractures.
A severe fracture is unstable, and surgery is often necessary to remove and replace the injured vertebra (or vertebrae) and stabilize the spine. The use of advanced techniques such as kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty can help rebuild compressed spinal bone, restore alignment, and relieve nerve strain.
For lumbar vertebral body replacement, a tiny metal cage filled with bone graft material is screwed into the neighboring healthy vertebrae to replace the damaged ones.
Degenerative disc disease is a painful condition resulting from the wear and tear of a spinal disc. It can cause weakness, numbness, and even hot, shooting pains in some people.
Degenerative disc degeneration is characterized by herniated discs. These discs are treated with discectomies, which involve removing the disc and relieving pressure on the nerve.
A lumbar discectomy relieves back pain caused by a herniated disc in the low back. Artificial disc replacement is an alternative to spinal fusion for those with severely damaged discs. During the procedure, the disc is removed and replaced with a synthetic disc to restore height and mobility between vertebrae.
Doctors may recommend spinal fusion with discectomy if there is severe degeneration of a disc or the disc has slipped to a great extent. They may also recommend these procedures if the joints and vertebrae cannot support that part of the spine any longer. More often than not, this combination is required on the neck than in the back.
In rare cases, back pain is caused by a tumor, an infection, or a nerve root problem called cauda equina syndrome. In these cases, NIAMS advises surgery right away to ease the pain and prevent more problems.
Back pain can leave you in a lot of agony. Dr. Butler has extensive experience diagnosing and treating thoracic and cervical conditions requiring surgery. If you believe you are a candidate for spinal surgery, your doctor can refer you to Dr. Butler or another qualified spine surgeon who can review your case to determine if you can expect a good outcome from surgery.