The decision to have back surgery can be one of the most critical and life-impacting choices you will ever make. But, it can also be the decision that frees you of chronic, debilitating pain, helps increase your activity and mobility, allows you to increase your productivity and revitalizes your entire outlook on life.
The orthopedic surgeons of the Spine & Joint Institute have received numerous honors and distinctions for excellence for their successful outcomes with patients having procedures on the cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine.
In the majority of cases, back and neck pain can be related to disc problems. Before discussing how disc problems can cause back and neck pain, it is useful to first understand the role of a healthy disc in the spine and the anatomy. The disc, located between the individual vertebrae, has several important purposes, including functioning as a spacer, shock absorber and as a motion unit. The terms “slipped disc” and “herniated” or “ruptured disc” are symptomatic of critical back problems.
Depending on the individual, back pain can also be caused by Osteoarthritis—a deterioration of the small joints of the spine. This condition can result in bone spurs on your spine, with the excess bone narrowing the amount of space available for nerves to pass through the openings of a vertebra.
Because of the complexities of the spine, there are several distinct types of back surgery that might be required:
• Diskectomy. This involves removal of the herniated portion of a disk to relieve irritation and inflammation of a nerve. Diskectomy typically involves partial removal of the back portion of a vertebra (lamina) 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.
• 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 a degenerated or injured disk.
• Artificial disks. Implanted artificial disks are a treatment alternative to spinal fusion for painful movement between two vertebrae due to a degenerated or injured disk. But these relatively new devices are not usually a viable option for most people.
Since back pain and spinal surgery are highly complex issues, a discussion of your symptoms, goals and medical options will be a critical consultation between you, your physician and the orthopedic doctors and care teams at the Spine & Joint Institute.
Only after a thorough analysis and evaluation of all your treatment options have been made, a determination will be made about spinal surgery or other medical alternatives. Nonsurgical measures can frequently control the pain, but only you can decide if the level of pain you are experiencing is acceptable or not.
If the decision is to proceed with a surgical procedure, you can expect a short hospital stay that usually lasts one to two days following the procedure. Normally, you will be up and walking the day of your surgery, which in fact is usually the best exercise following back surgery. Of course, several factors can affect the length of time you are hospitalized, such as the type of surgery performed, your health and your age. If there are complications, you may be in the hospital longer.
Of course, there are a great many important details about spinal surgery we have not gone into here, and you will have a number of important questions you woud like answered before you make your final decision. That is why the Spine & Joint Institute has compiled a detailed booklet that provides complete details about each specific procedure, and answers frequently asked questions about spinal surgery, the recovery period, your expectations and many other important topics.