Sex life is an important part of the definition of “quality of life” for many patients with chronic low back pain. Since LBP can affect all aspects of life, it’s no surprise that sexual function can be diminished with persistent pain and discomfort. The outcome of spinal surgery can vary greatly from one person to the next. Patients who undergo surgery for some common degenerative conditions, however, report better sexual functioning.
Better Outcomes for Degenerative Conditions
According to research presented at a meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, patients undergoing surgery for degenerative conditions were twice as likely to return to a pain-free sex life than those who had surgery for other conditions. Patients reported an ability to return to sexual activities more often following surgery for two common degenerative conditions:
- Spinal Spondylolisthesis: A forward or backward slippage of a vertebra onto an adjacent vertebra, this degenerative condition often involves lower back and leg pain and leg numbness and tingling.
- Spinal Stenosis: While not always resulting in pain, this condition is characterized by a narrowing of the spine that may become painful when nerves are pinched in narrow areas.
Determining Patient Priorities
The majority of patients evaluated, approximately 70 percent, considered sex life relevant. About 40 percent of physicians surveyed in a previous study reported routinely questioning patients about sexual problems related to lower back pain from disc herniation. This discrepancy suggests a need to determine what’s important to patients during pre-surgery consultations to clarify expectations.
More Pain Among Non-Operative Patients
The study found that non-operative patients were more likely to report sex-related back pain than those who opted for surgery for pain relief. Patients who are married, younger, and male place more of an importance on sexual functioning, although it can be a significant factor for anybody considering spine surgery.
Before surgery becomes an option for any type of back pain, patients must have tried conservative back pain treatments such as physical therapy and heat and cold applications without success for 6-7 months. There must also be a clearly identified source of pain, which is usually the case with degenerative conditions.
For more information about back pain or to learn more about options for relief, reach out to The Spine Institute Center. Our advanced diagnostic team and professional board-certified spine physicians can assist you on your journey to a pain-free life. Call our office today at (310) 828-7757 and schedule an in-person consultation today.