If you have persistent back pain, you’re in good company: back pain is very common.
While your back pain can often be relieved by non-surgical methods — such as physical therapy, exercise and anti-inflammatory medications — some conditions can only be relieved by surgery, including:
- Bulging or ruptured spinal disks, which can sometimes press on your spinal nerve and limit its function.
- Fractured vertebrae, from an injury or from osteoporosis, which can cause debilitating pain.
- Spinal stenosis, which can put pressure on your spinal cord and spinal nerves.
Diagnosing the exact cause of your back pain can be difficult, and it’s a good idea to get a second opinion.
Whenever possible, your doctor will consider non-surgical therapies. But if you get a diagnosis that requires surgery, understand all of your surgical treatment options — including robotic or minimally invasive surgeries that allow you to benefit from smaller incisions and faster recovery times.
Talk with your doctor about each option, and then make the decision that feels right for you.
Minimally invasive treatment options for chronic back pain
Common minimally invasive procedures to treat back pain are:
Artificial disk replacement
Artificial disk replacement can be a minimally invasive alternative to spinal fusion for people with severely damaged disks. During this surgical procedure, an artificial disk — also called a disk prosthesis — is used to replace a disk in your spine.
The artificial disks can replace all or part of the original disk. They are made of metal or a plastic-like material called biopolymer, or a combination of the two.
Nucleoplasty (also called plasma disk decompression)
Nucleoplasty is a minimally invasive procedure performed to relieve lower back pain caused by mild degeneration of a disk. Your lower back will be numbed with a local anesthetic, and you will be awake (though sedated to relieve anxiety).
Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty
Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are surgical procedures used to treat painful compression fractures of the spine, which usually result from osteoporosis. They may also be used for elderly or frail individuals whose spinal bones are unlikely to heal after a fracture or those who have a vertebral compression from a malignant tumor.
Traditional surgical options for chronic back pain
Surgical procedures to treat back pain include:
If you have a herniated disk that’s causing severe leg or arm pain, numbness, weakness in your arm or lower leg muscles, or pain that spreads into your buttocks or legs, your doctor may recommend diskectomy. During the procedure, your surgeon will remove all or part of a spinal disk.
Done to relieve foraminal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the opening in your spine where the nerve roots pass through your spinal canal, foraminotomy relieves pressure on these nerves, relieving your pain. This surgical procedure is often done along with a spinal fusion to stabilize the spinal column.
Laminectomy — usually done for people with spinal stenosis or bone spurs — makes more space for your spinal nerves by removing the lamina, which is the part of the vertebral bone that lines your spinal canal.
Laminectomy and diskectomy are often done at the same time. Your surgeon may also do a foraminotomy to widen the opening where your nerve roots extend out of your spine.
Spinal fusion permanently joins two or more bones in your spine. It’s used to alleviate back pain by:
- Eliminating motion between your vertebrae, alleviating pain caused by degenerated or injured disks.
- Stabilizing your spine, eliminating pain from an injury or fracture of a vertebra.
Abnormal spinal curvatures, such as scoliosis or kyphosis, may also be helped by spinal fusion.
You can count on the expert surgeons at Tanner Ortho and Spine Center
Our surgeons have the specialization and experience to help you determine if you’ll benefit from surgery or if you’re likely to respond to non-surgical treatments.
If you and your surgeon feel that surgery is needed, you can have confidence knowing you’ll have the best possible result. With any procedure — whether it’s minimally invasive or a traditional surgery — you can count on our surgeons, nurses and other providers to give you the highest quality care throughout your surgery experience.
Learn more about our exceptional orthopedic and spine care at TannerOrtho.org.