Americans spend about $50 billion a year on back pain relief efforts, usually in the form of medication or physical therapy. Even with nearly 500,000 spine surgeries performed annually in the United States when conservative treatments aren’t effective, surgery is rarely a necessary step for most people with back or neck pain. If you’ve reached a point where you have to make a decision about surgery as a possible source of meaningful relief, here’s a closer look at the risks and rewards of spine surgery.
Risks of Spine Surgery
First, it’s important to realize that Los Angeles spine surgeons normally take every possible precaution to minimize risks. Still, no procedure is completely risk-free. Some patients may have reactions to the anesthesia. Sometimes, this is because they fail to mention over-the-counter medications they are taking.
Infections, excessive bleeding, and unintentional nerve damage are among the possible complications that may occur during surgery. It should be noted that complications of this nature are rare. Potential spine surgery risks also include:
- Spinal fusion not forming
- Lung issues related to anesthesia
- Shifts of spinal hardware
- Persistent pain that lasts longer than what’s considered normal after surgery
- Blood clots
Some patients experience failed back surgery syndrome, which doesn’t necessarily mean the procedure was a failure. It often means there’s another source of the patient’s symptoms that wasn’t identified during initial attempts at making a diagnosis.
Rewards of Spine Surgery
The most obvious reward is a noticeable reduction in discomfort. There are two main purposes of spine surgery: stabilization and decompression. When the surgery is successful, the spine becomes stable again and radiating nerve pain (e.g. pain, numbness, or tingling sensations in arms, shoulders, thighs, or legs) is often reduced or eventually eliminated altogether as nerves heal. Other possible rewards that may be enjoyed following spine surgery include:
- An ability to resume preferred activities without distracting pain
- A return to competitive sports
- Noticeable improvements with overall quality of life
- Less reliance on medication
- Restored mobility, flexibility, and range of motion
- Long-lasting results thanks to spinal hardware designed to last longer and stand up to daily wear better
The success rates for most common procedures are fairly high, which is especially true with spinal fusion surgery. Los Angeles surgeons typically perform fusion procedures with techniques that are less invasive than what was standard even a decade or so ago. There have also been significant advances with the use of robotic-assistance systems and stem cells for regenerative purposes to help with the recovery of nerve cells.
Prior to considering any type of surgery, most doctors recommend about 6-8 weeks of conservative treatments. Spine surgery, even minimally invasive procedures, presents certain risks. However, the benefits often outweigh the potential risks, especially if other attempts at relief haven’t produced the intended results or quality of life is significantly affected. This doesn’t mean you can’t get more than one opinion and explore alternative options like acupuncture and chiropractic manipulation before committing to surgery. The more confident you are about your decision to have spine surgery, the more likely you are to see positive results.
For information on fusion procedures or alternatives to spinal fusion, Los Angeles patients should contact The Spine Institute. To schedule an in-person evaluation and take the first steps toward living a pain-free life, call 310-828-7757 today.