When Non-Invasive Treatment Is Not Enough To Relieve Your Back Pain

Your persistent back pain is getting in the way of work and other daily activities. Back braces and pain medication are not giving you enough relief. Your pain management doctors have suggested surgery as the next step to correct the problem and relieve the pain. Here is what you can expect from back surgery and how it works to relieve your pain.

Surgery Targets Irritated Nerves

Your back pain is caused by the irritation of nerves due to some physical change in your back. Nerves exit the spinal cord and make their way through the vertebrae to various parts of the body. If one of these bundles of nerves is constantly irritated, the tissue surrounding the nerves becomes inflamed and painful. As long as the irritation persists, you'll have back pain.

The nerves can become irritated in a variety of ways, such as:

  • A degenerative bone disease, such as osteoarthritis, can cause the openings in the vertebrae through which the nerves pass to narrow and rub on the nerves.
  • An abnormal growth of bone, such as a bone spur, can protrude into the bundle of nerves.
  • A sudden twisting force can tear one of the cartilage discs in the spine, causing it to push on the nerves.

Any surgery on your back will focus on relieving these irritations of your nerves. When the irritation is gone, the inflammation goes away, as will your pain.

A Choice of Procedures

Back surgeons will do X-rays, and perhaps an MRI, to get a clear view of the cause of the nerve irritation. They will have a good idea of the problem that needs to be corrected before starting the surgery. However, they may observe other issues once they begin the surgery that require them to take other measures. The corrective measures may include:

  • Widening pathways through the vertebrae for the nerves so they aren't constricted.
  • Removal of any abnormal bone growth that is pressing against the nerves.
  • Removal of part of a vertebrae to give the nerves more room to pass.
  • Extraction of all or a part of one or more of the damaged cartilage discs that may be pressing on the nerves.

Should any of these procedures compromise the stability of the spine, such as the removal of an entire cartilage disc, a spinal fusion will be performed. The surgeon will pack bones chips into the space originally occupied by the disc to fuse the two vertebrae together. The area must be held rigid while the fusion takes place. To do this, the surgeon will attach metal rods to either side of the spine to hold it in place. These rods may come out later, but could stay in indefinitely.

You'll Finally Have Relief from the Pain

It will take a few days for the inflammation around your nerves to go away after the surgery. Your doctor will prescribe physical therapy to slowly stretch out the tense muscles in your back caused by the constant pain. As you regain movement and strength in your back, you'll be able to return to work and your other daily activities without the constant nagging back pain. Contact a healthcare provider office, such as the Southwest Florida Neurosurgical Associates, for more information.