August 01, 2020

Back surgery

Often the best last resort

Surgery isn't appropriate for just any type of back pain. But when it is, newer techniques are sometimes allowing for a speedier, though still challenging, recovery.

Spinal fusion

Back pain comes in a variety of forms. For most people, the aches and pains go away with time and can be managed with targeted physical therapy, medications and other nonsurgical approaches. But what do you do when you've tried the nonsurgical approaches without much success?

Surgery may be an option. It's not a cure-all for any type of back pain. However, it can be very effective in some situations.

Surgery for back pain or sciatica is usually reserved for problems in which a nerve near the spinal cord is severely irritated or pinched. It may also be considered in cases of impaired function when the spinal cord is compressed or if the spine becomes unstable.

There are some situations in which immediate surgery may be indicated. Fortunately for most people, surgery becomes an appropriate option only after the body has had ample time to heal from an injury and when moreconservative measures have failed. Surgery may also be warranted if there is severe, unremitting pain or if you develop arm or leg weakness, loss of bowel or bladder control, or other complications.

However, surgery isn't without potential complications. Recovery may take weeks or months depending on the severity of the condition and your overall health. A successful recovery — usually involving physical therapy — may require significant rehabilitation effort and time away from work or hobbies. For these reasons, consider getting a second opinion from a qualified spine surgeon before you agree to back surgery.

Steps short of...