An Overview of Back Surgery and Spine Surgery

You’ve tried pain medications, physical therapy, and other non-invasive treatments… and now the orthopedic doctor is recommending surgery. The idea of back surgery might seem overwhelming, but modern technology has resulted in incredible advances in the industry.

A skilled surgeon can address the root cause of your pain, helping you overcome the chronic symptoms that are disrupting your daily activities. If you are preparing for this life-changing medical treatment, it’s important to learn about the procedure to know what to expect.

At Orthopedic Associates, we work hard to educate our patients and provide clear information about every treatment. Here is an overview of the types of back surgery we offer. Keep reading to find answers to your most common questions about spine surgery.

Types of Back Surgery

If back surgery is needed to relieve your pain, then the doctor will talk to you about the specific treatments and procedures that will be used. Our team at Orthopedic Associates has back specialists with particular skills to address different types of surgical procedures. Rest assured knowing that you are in good hands when you choose us for your spinal surgery.

What are the Different Types of Back Surgery?

Types of spinal surgery can include:

  • Kyphoplasty and Vertebroplasty: If the vertebrae are fractured, then these injuries can be strengthened with a glue-like substance to reinforce the bone. This surgery is common for patients with osteoporosis.
  • Discectomy: When a disc is herniated and putting pressure on the nerves, then this procedure can help by removing the portion of the disc causing pressure. It’s common for a discectomy and laminectomy to be done in the same procedure.
  • Spinal Laminectomy: Spinal stenosis causes the spinal canal to narrow, resulting in weakness, numbness, or pain. During the surgery, the doctor removes bone spurs and shaves off other parts of the bone to open up the spinal column – which reduces pressure on the nerves.
  • Spinal Fusion: A process where the spinal disc between vertebrae is removed. Then, the adjacent vertebrae are fused using metal devices or bone grafts.
  • Disc Replacement: An alternative to spinal fusion is the placement of an artificial disc. The original disc is first removed, then a synthetic disc is put in place. The replacement helps to restore movement and height between the vertebrae.

What is the Most Common Back Surgery?

The three most common types of back surgery include spinal fusion, laminectomy, and discectomy. These procedures can help with most causes of back pain, although each patient’s condition needs to be evaluated before choosing the right type of surgery.

Your doctor will complete a thorough diagnosis, including digital imaging, before recommending the optimal treatment for your condition.

Am I a Good Candidate for Back Surgery?

Every patient is unique, which is why there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for addressing the pain and discomfort. If you are experiencing acute and/or chronic back pain, then the best thing you can do is talk to a spine specialist here at Orthopedic Associates.

Here are some of the conditions that might indicate you are a good candidate for spine surgery:

  • Repair of ruptured or herniated discs
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Damage to spinal discs
  • Vertebral fractures
  • Osteoporosis
  • Spinal injury
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Infection of the spine
  • Tumor or growth on the spine

Patients who experience the most relief from back surgery are those with structural issues affecting the spine and visible digital imaging patterns that correlate to your pain.

In most situations, our doctors recommend that patients try non-invasive treatments first. If we can reduce or eliminate the pain using physical therapy, medications, and other treatments, then you don’t have to go through the recovery of spine surgery. Our approach is to minimize changes to the spinal structure whenever possible.

Is Back Surgery Effective?

Most types of back pain are treatable without surgery, which is why our team at Orthopedic Associates always uses minimally-invasive treatments before suggesting surgical procedures. There are certain situations where back surgery is an effective and much-needed solution to alleviate the pain.

How Successful is Lower Back Surgery?

Research suggests that between 20 – 40% of back surgeries don’t produce the lasting results the patient desired. In fact, there is a medical term used in the industry: “failed back surgery syndrome.”

It’s also important to note that between 60 – 80% of back surgeries successfully alleviate the person’s pain. No doubt about it: there are times when back surgery is necessary and viable to address nerve compression and serious musculoskeletal injuries.

Can Back Surgery Paralyze You?

Paralysis after back surgery is uncommon. But, when the procedure affects the nerves and bones in the spinal column, there is always a risk of complications. A variety of problems can lead to paralysis complications, such as:

  • Spinal column bleeding
  • A leak of the spinal fluid
  • Infection
  • Nerve injury

The best way to minimize the risk of a severe complication from spinal surgery is to choose a doctor with years of experience and a strong reputation.

After Back Surgery: What to Expect

As with any other type of medical treatment, you need to plan for recovery after back surgery. In the following days, you can expect your back to feel sore and stiff, but this discomfort will subside with time. Some patients find that their pain is significantly less after the surgery, but they still need to take pain medication during recovery.

Keep in mind that you will need 4 to 6 weeks before returning to simple activities. Your doctor will provide specific recommendations to prevent injury or damage to the surgical area. For example, you should avoid housework, lifting, and exercises that could put pressure on the spine.

How Painful is Back Surgery?

You will be under anesthesia during the surgery, so you won’t feel any pain when the procedure is happening. Immediately after the surgery, you will feel pain in the treatment area. Remember that your body went through a medical process, so there will be overall discomfort as you heal from the incision and surgical procedure.

It’s common to have a bit of swelling around the wound. The arthritic, achy pain you felt before the surgery is replaced with temporary inflammation and wound healing.

The body will continue to heal for a few weeks after the surgery. Most people experience noticeable pain relief between 4 – 6 weeks after the procedure.

How Long is Recovery from Back Surgery?

Recovery time varies, depending on the type of back surgery that is done. Some people can return to work and basic activities within a week or two. But they must be diligent about following recommendations, such as lifting and movement limitations.

You will have follow-up appointments after the treatment to determine the progress of your recovery. Most patients find that they can return to normal activities within 6 – 12 weeks.

If you want to speed up your healing time, then it’s essential to implement your doctor’s recommendations. For example, you might need to have regular physical therapy appointments with at-home activities to support your healing.

Talk to a Spine Specialist about Your Back Pain

At Orthopedic Associates, we are here to help with everything you need to alleviate your back pain. Our full-service treatment ensures that you always have support – before, during, and after your back surgery. Contact us to schedule an appointment so you can talk to a spinal specialist.

Becki Andrus