As we age, many of us begin to experience back pain. Studies show that 80% of all Americans will experience back pain at least once in their lives. There are numerous causes of back pain – and many effective treatment options including anti-inflammatory medications, heat, rest and physical therapy. However, if the pain persists and the other treatment options haven’t worked, back surgery may be recommended by your physician.
When is back surgery a good idea?
If you have a herniated disk, surgery could likely be recommended – especially if there is persistent pain and nerve compression, which can lead to muscle weakness. Nerves may become compressed for a variety of reasons including:
- Disk problems. Bulging or ruptured (herniated) disks – the rubbery cushions separating the bones of your spine – can sometimes press too tightly against a spinal nerve and affect its function.
- Overgrowth of bone. Osteoarthritis can result in bone spurs on your spine. This excess bone can narrow the amount of space available for nerves to pass through openings in your spine.
The different types of back surgery:
- Diskectomy. This involves removal of the herniated portion of a disk to relieve irritation and inflammation of a nerve. Diskectomy typically involves full or partial removal of the back portion of a vertebra to access the ruptured disk.
- Laminectomy. This procedure involves the removal of the bone overlying the spinal canal. It enlarges the spinal canal and is performed to relieve nerve pressure caused by spinal stenosis, which is often caused by age-related wear and tear.
- Fusion. Spinal fusion permanently connects two or more bones in your spine. It can relieve pain by adding stability to a spinal fracture. It is occasionally used to eliminate painful motion between vertebrae that can result from an injured or degenerated disk (commonly known as Degenerative Disk Disease).
- Artificial disks. Implanted artificial disks are a new treatment alternative to spinal fusion for painful movement between two vertebrae due to a degenerated or injured disk.
Consider all options
Before proceeding with back surgery, be sure to consider all options. It should be noted that it can be very difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of your back pain, even if your X-rays show that you have disk problems or bone spurs. Back pain can be a complex issue that should be discussed at length with your health professional.