When Is Back Surgery Appropriate for Chronic Pain?

Surgery for Severe Back Pain

The debilitating nature of chronic pain can lead to lost time at work, difficulty in carrying out the activities of daily living and an inability to enjoy favorite activities. In addition, prolonged suffering can cause physical changes in the muscles and bones due to an altered use of the affected areas. Many physicians choose to treat chronic pain with medication and physical therapy, but in some cases, back surgery is the only treatment that provides lasting results.

Surgery works well for patients with chronic pain who are suffering from symptoms caused by nerve compression. The hallmark signs of a compressed nerve include pain at the site of origin, radiating pain, weakness, a feeling of “pins and needles” and tingling. Pinched nerves are most often caused by problems in the spinal column that involve the vertebrae or discs.

Individuals may also have disc injuries that cause compressed nerves. Spinal discs are fluid filled cushions between the vertebrae that keep the vertebral bones from sliding against each other. Bulging, slipped or ruptured discs can simply be caused by the aging process, but injuries often occur to the discs from overuse or injury such as in a car accident. When this is the case, spinal decompression surgery may be appropriate or the patient may benefit from options such as lumbar artificial disc replacement.

Nerve compression can also occur from changes in the vertebral bones. Osteoarthritis causes an overgrowth of bone that often shortens the space in which the nerves travel resulting in pressure on that area’s nerves.

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal that occurs as individuals age and can also make surgery an appropriate option to help widen the canal. As time passes, the discs begin to flatten and crack bringing the vertebrae closer together. As a result, bone spurs form and ligaments creep into the spinal canal causing a narrowing. Symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis include difficulty in walking, heaviness in the legs, and pain.

If you suffer from chronic pain that has not responded to conservative therapies and treatments, it may be time to speak to a spinal specialist about your surgical options. For more information, reach out to The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration at (310) 828-7757. Dr. Hyun Bae, Medical Director and orthopedic spine surgeon, leads the team at The Spine Institute and can help you find the best surgical option for your individual needs.