Thinking About Surgery?
Back pain is a common occurrence, with more than 80% of Americans having back pain at some point. This sounds serious, but most people with back pain recover quickly. Someone standing or sitting too long can feel a pinch in the lower back, for instance. But when the pain is chronic and starts to affect the quality of life, there may be a severe issue. At some point, someone with long-term back pain may be thinking about surgery. Back surgery is an effective way to relieve pain and improve mobility. However, going under the knife is necessary only in certain conditions.
When back issues become chronic
The back is complex, made of several muscles, tendons, bones, and ligaments. The spine also contains intervertebral discs and a network of nerves that affect almost every part of the body. Most cases of back pain are strains and sprains, usually due to overworking these muscles. The chronic cases are due to more severe cases like a herniated disc or damaged bone. Herniated discs slip out of place and press on surrounding nerves. Bones degrade or create spurs due to issues like arthritis, which can also impact nerves. Anyone with these 2 conditions may be thinking about surgery.
Have your treatments failed you?
Doctors rarely call on back surgery to resolve pain. Most patients will benefit from non-surgical treatment. These treatments run the gamut from medication, steroid injections, temperature therapy, and physical therapy. With consistent use, these are effective treatments for most back concerns. However, if someone has tried these techniques for more than 6 months without relief, surgery may be the next best step.
Pain beyond your back
Over time, back pain can affect other areas of the body. The discs or bones can press on nerves that travel to the arms and legs. Sciatica is a common condition that can cause nerve pain and weakness in the leg. Other common conditions include loss of bladder control or sexual dysfunction. If the back pain has developed into multiple issues, consider back surgery.
Clear and obvious damage
Broken bones can be painful, and a spinal fracture is no different. Surprisingly, most spinal fractures can heal without surgery. Some cases can lead to severe, long-term complications if not addressed with surgery. If a doctor believes that non-surgical treatment would not help the fracture, the patient should consider surgery.
What to expect with minimally invasive surgery
Minimally invasive surgery, commonly called MIS, is the gold standard of back surgery. MIS’s goal is to speed up recovery time, reduce the chances of infection, and increase success rates. A surgeon will use 2 or more buttonhole incisions instead of an incision several inches long with open surgery. The small incisions allow the doctor to use an arthroscope, a snake-like tool with a camera. From there, small tools can remove the damaged bone, disc and even perform fusions. MIS has become so successful that most patients can leave the same day.
Don’t take back pain lightly
Chronic back pain, if left untreated, can be debilitating. If non-surgical treatment is not working, speak with a doctor. Similarly, if there are other serious symptoms, like sciatica, that’s a good sign for surgery. Opting for back surgery is a serious decision. Make sure to explore all options before choosing surgery.