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Back surgery: When is it a good idea?

Back surgery: When is it a good idea?

Surgical intervention is usually unnecessary to alleviate lower back discomfort. Unfortunately, data shows that between 20 and 40% of back procedures are unsuccessful at relieving patients' pain. Due to the prevalence of this problem, the medical community has coined the phrase "failed back surgery syndrome" to describe the condition patients experience after back surgery that does not work.

Even so, severe musculoskeletal injuries or nerve compression sometimes call for surgical intervention, and this is one of those cases where back surgery is a real possibility. If you have tried everything else to alleviate your pain without success, a pain management professional can advise you on whether or not to have surgery.

Most cases of back pain do not require surgical intervention

Back pain can be alleviated in most cases without resorting to invasive medical procedures like surgery or laser therapy. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, as well as ice, heat, spinal injections, physical therapy, and so on, can alleviate pain and inflammation. According to studies, exercising regularly can help alleviate back discomfort and prevent it from returning.

Your surgeon won't offer back surgery until you've exhausted less invasive options unless you've suffered a catastrophic spinal cord injury.

Causes That May Require Back Surgery

In case your primary care provider suspects you have:

  • A degenerative spinal problem like stenosis (narrowing of the protective bony canal around the spinal cord) that is causing symptoms like weakness;
  • A slipped disc that isn't getting better on its own;
  • Bone spurs in your spine (these are typically caused by arthritis);
  • Extremity paralysis or tingling
  • If you're having trouble walking, difficulty using your hands, or lost control of your bladder or bowels, it could be a sign of an issue with the nerves.
  • You may have a spinal infection if you have a high temperature and severe back discomfort.
  • A condition affecting the back, such as a fracture, dislocation, or tumour pressing on the spinal column

Just because you consult a surgeon doesn't imply you have to go under the knife. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to explore different paths.

What are the types of back surgery?

  • Kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty: Vertebral compression fractures due to osteoporosis are treated surgically. In both, glue-like bone cement is injected to solidify and reinforce the bone.
  • Spinal laminectomy /decompression of the spine: This procedure may be recommended when discomfort, tingling, or weakness is caused by spinal stenosis due to a spinal canal narrowing. The surgeon's goal is to create more space in the spinal canal by removing bone spurs and bony dividers between the vertebrae.
  • Discectomy: This operation removes the offending disc when a herniated disc is causing pressure on a nerve root or the spinal cord. Discectomy and laminectomy are two procedures that are often done jointly.
  • Foraminotomy: Surgeons perform this operation to alleviate pressure on a nerve caused by a herniated disc or arthritic joints by widening the bone canal via which the nerve departs the spinal column.
  • Nucleoplasty: People with modest herniated discs and low back pain can benefit from this laser procedure, which uses radiofrequency energy. The doctor puts a needle into the disc. After inserting a plasma laser device into the needle, the tip is heated to produce a field that vaporises the tissue in the disc, decreasing its size and releasing pressure on the nerves.

Surgical Timing Is Crucial If It Is Required

Back surgeries are typically not emergency procedures. With degenerative spine disorders that progress slowly, doctors usually recommend waiting six weeks before considering surgery for patients with herniated (or "slipped") discs. In this way, he can assess whether or not your body can recover without any outside intervention. Further, it will allow him to test the efficacy of less invasive therapies like spinal injections and physiotherapy.

However, there are situations in which emergency surgery is a must. Extremely persistent pain, neurological indications like foot drop, or a catastrophic condition like a spinal cord injury may make your surgeon reluctant to wait. Get a second opinion if you're unsure whether or not you need surgery.

You and your surgeon will make all surgical decisions together. If they advise surgery, remember that putting it off can make matters worse if it turns out to be necessary.

That's especially important if you have a degenerative condition that's putting pressure on your spinal cord. The nerves in your spinal cord require constant oxygen and nourishment. A lack of blood supply can cause muscle weakness and other symptoms of nerve injury to the spine over time.

Whether you decide to undergo surgery or not, adopting a healthy lifestyle can help lessen the likelihood that you will experience more back pain. Your spine and the tissues around it will benefit from your efforts to maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, consume a nutritious diet, and abstain from tobacco use.