14 Jun 6 Important Facts about Spinal Fusion for Low Back Pain
Many people experience low back pain at some time in their lives. Lumbar spinal stenosis is characterized by persistent episodes of back pain and a declining loss of mobility. It’s common in older adults who often opt for spinal fusion surgery. But is spinal fusion really the answer? Below are some important facts to consider before undergoing spinal fusion surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis. Always seek out a second opinion before surgery to explore the various options available to you to manage low back pain.
- Experts Recommend Physical Therapy– Spinal fusion is a type of procedure that can’t be undone. It’s a big commitment and before you take the leap, experts recommend that you try a more conservative approach to pain management. Physical therapy can help you realign your body and develop strength in the areas of your body that are lacking. If the physical therapy doesn’t work, you can always change your mind and have spinal fusion surgery done later.
- Spinal Fusion Surgery “Welds” the Bones Together – In a spinal fusion procedure, the small bones of the spine (vertebrae) are fused together using bone grafts. Rods, screws, and plates are used to stabilize the graft while it takes hold and heals into one solid bone. When low back pain results from the movement of a particular vertebrae or joint, spinal fusion surgery can help eliminate pain by eliminating movement within that joint.
- More Patients Are Having Spinal Fusion – Patients over the age of 65 are having spinal fusion surgery for their lower back pain in record numbers. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of spinal fusion procedures increased 67 percent in this age group according to the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.
- About 30% of the Population Has Back Pain – Back pain is common. About 80 percent of the population will get back pain at some point in their lifetime. And on any given day, about 30 percent of people will have some form of back discomfort. Spinal fusion surgeries are overutilized. For most patients, the back pain will go away on its own within less than 2 years.
- Disability May Continue after Surgery – Spinal fusion surgery doesn’t guarantee a complete remission of symptoms. In fact, less invasive procedures like physical therapy or exercise can decrease the probability of disability. According to one study that compared workers’ compensation patients who either had spinal fusion or a more conservative and less invasive treatment showed that those who opted for physical therapy or exercise where more likely to stop taking opioid painkillers and to be able to return to work after two years.
- There Are Clear Indicators That Spinal Fusion is Necessary – How do you know whether spinal fusion is right for you? If you’ve ever experienced severe spinal trauma or had a tumor removed from the spine, then spinal fusion might be the right choice for you. Scoliosis patients who have a severe curvature of the spine or patients with other types of deformities might consider spinal fusion surgery. Patients who have been diagnosed with degenerative spondylolisthesis along with spinal stenosis are also excellent candidates for spinal fusion surgery. If this isn’t your story, try more conservative methods of treatment first to see if you can get your back pain to resolve without surgery.