Back pain is an all too common condition and bad backs are big business. More than $85 billion is spent annually on Americans trying to relieve their aching backs. But even after throwing all the money on bad backs, the majority of people remain in pain.
Though many people believe that back surgery will relieve their aching back, that is not always the case. Back pain is not necessarily an indication for surgery. In fact, surgery often fails to relieve back aches.
Many back problems respond to nonsurgical treatments, such as ice, heat, anti-inflammatory prescription or over-the-counter medication, gentle massage and physical therapy. Your general practitioner might refer you to an orthopedic surgeon if non-surgical attempts fail to relieve the pain.
Surgery is typically the last resort for the treatment of back pain. It is usually only recommended if your back problem is affecting your mobility and other treatments have not sufficiently relieved chronic pain.
Your physician may suggest that you consider surgery if you continue to experience considerable pain despite nonsurgical treatment and if the cause of your back pain is due to something that can be surgically corrected.
Spine surgery is rarely an initial treatment for back pain; however, there are a few emergencies that may require surgical treatment. In the vast majority of patients, spine surgery is only considered after a long course of conservative therapy. As stated earlier, back pain often takes quite some time to resolve. Therefore, rushing into spine surgery may not be the best idea. Most commonly, doctors will advise at least three to six months of conservative treatment before considering spine surgery.
Back surgery is usually done to relieve pressure on one or more nerves in your spine. The spine (or backbone) is made up of about 29 bones (called vertebrae) which are linked together. Muscles and ligaments provide support for the spine. The spine forms a channel called the spinal canal, through which the spinal cord and spinal nerves run. These nerves branch off in pairs from spaces between the vertebrae to specific parts of the body. Cushions of tissue, called discs, sit between the vertebrae and allow the spine to move. Back disc surgery is common.
Spinal decompression is a therapy often tried in an effort to avoid cervical spine surgery. Many people now are choosing laser back surgery because of the lower risks and higher rates of success. Additionally, laser back surgery is minimally invasive and is done under local anesthesia and there is a faster recovery after back surgery.