Surgery Can Be a Pain in The Back

Doctors rarely perform surgery for back pain.

HEALTH Surgery for the sole purpose of relieving back pain typically has no better than a 50 percent chance of success. Each case is different, of course, but back surgery is generally done to treat nerve pain in the extremities resulting from herniated discs. Even among these individuals, only about 10 percent end up having surgery. [1]

Extenuating circumstances that bring the surgical option into the forefront include a trauma induced spinal fracture, infection, scoliosis, kyphosis, spondylolisthesis, tumor, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc, leg weakness or loss of bladder control. [1,2] Though pain in the lumbar spine (lower back, L4-L5) or sciatica is common, pain may also radiate from the neck or cervical spine, causing paresthesia or numbness in the arm or fingers. In most cases, it is advisable to begin with a physical exam by a primary care physician or chiropractor before seeing a spine surgeon. [3]

Methods of Relief

Nonsurgical remedies are wisely considered first. This may include medications and/or physical therapy. Barring structural damage from previously mentioned extenuating circumstances, improving posture and strengthening back and core muscles generally requires less discomfort and effort than post surgical rehabilitation.

Be wary of an eager scalpel. In some cases, surgery to remove certain types of tumors that grow on the spinal cord or nerve roots could cause more harm to the spinal cord than not removing the tumor. [4] If surgery is recommended by more than one physician and it appears warranted, consider and understand the risks of all available options. It may appear that every few years a new procedure is introduced that might improve upon prior technologies but lack an established track record. Some of the currently available options are briefly described below.

  • Discectomy: Removal of herniated portion of disc to relieve irritation and inflammation of a nerve.
  • Laminectomy: Enlarges spinal canal to relieve nerve spinal stenosis pressure.
  • Fusion: Spinal fusion permanently connects two or more bones in your spine.
  • Vertebroplasty: Bone cement injected into compressed fractured vertebrae.
  • Artificial discs: Relatively new alternative to spinal fusion for painful movement between two vertebrae due to a degenerated or injured disc.

Chronic back pain can diminish one's quality of life, hinder mobility and result in job disability. For every patient success story there seems to be another where a patient longs for the pre-surgery condition. Fortunately, most back pain is relieved without surgery. has anatomy posters for medical examination rooms of orthopedists, physiatrists, rheumatologists, physical therapists and chiropractors.

Tags: coccydynia, coccyx, degenerative spine disorders, hurts, orthopedics, tailbone

  1. Low Back Pain - Surgery. ^
  2. Back surgery: When is it a good idea? ^
  3. When to See a Surgeon for Low Back Pain. ^
  4. Back Surgeries for Tumors and Infections. ^
  5. Disc or Disk? ^