Considered the second most common musculoskeletal condition just behind osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia is characterized by general fatigue coupled with muscle and joint pain. Due to the nature of the condition, determining whether or not to opt for back surgery isn’t such an easy decision.
Difficulty Treating All Symptoms
Fibromyalgia patients sometimes consider surgery as an option for relief due to the difficulty in treating all symptoms associated with the condition. Patients can experience a combination of any of the following symptoms:
• Chronic headaches
• Numbness or tingling of the feet and toes
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• Hypersensitivity to heat and cold
• Abdominal pain
Available Surgical Treatments
Due to the imprecise nature of fibromyalgia symptoms, surgical options are limited. Most doctors aren’t willing to recommend spine surgery if a specific cause of back pain can’t be clearly identified since the procedure may do more harm than good. The primary surgical option for fibromyalgia is a decompression operation. Patients must have a Chiari I malformation (brain tissue extends into the spinal canal) and cervical spinal stenosis in addition to other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia to be considered for the procedure.
Making a Judgment Call
A study funded by the National Fibromyalgia Research Association failed to find an increased instance of Chiari I malformations and cervical spinal stenosis in fibromyalgia patients, adding to the controversy surrounding the decompression surgery that’s sometimes performed on patients with the condition. For this reason, back surgery is usually a judgment call based on what’s seen on MRIs and x-rays. Non-surgical treatments for fibromyalgia often include:
• Over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers
• Antidepressants to ease pain and fatigue
• Anti-seizure drugs
• Counseling to deal with mental stress and depression
While approximately 12 million Americans have fibromyalgia, it’s a condition that mostly affects women from 25 to 60 in age. Back surgery for fibromyalgia isn’t for the fibromyalgia itself. Ideal candidates for surgery must have abnormal neurological findings that correlate with abnormalities at the base of the skull or around the neck that can be confirmed by image testing.
To learn more about conservative methods for fibromyalgia or to find out if you’re a candidate for surgery, reach out to The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration. Dr. Hyun Bae, the center’s medical director, can help you determine the best treatment options for your specific case. Request an in-person consultation by calling (310) 828-7757.