Surgery for Back Pain

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You may be fearful of back surgery, but in fact, only 5% of people need surgery to treat back problems. Your pain may be severe, but most sprains and strains do not require surgery. Surgery is reserved for the most severe cases of back pain (spinal cord impingement, structural deformity, severe cases of spinal stenosis).

surgeon wearing microscope eyeglasses

Surgery should be considered only after you’ve tried several months of non-surgical treatment. Many surgical procedures can be performed using minimally invasive techniques—meaning less “cutting” or entering the body. These techniques result in smaller incisions, shorter hospital stays, less pain after surgery, and a faster recovery.

Some typical spinal surgeries include:

Facetectomy: A procedure that removes a part of the facet (a bony structure in the spinal canal) to increase the space.

Foraminotomy: A procedure that removes the foramina (the area where the nerve roots exit the spinal canal) to increase the size of the nerve pathway. This surgery can be done alone or with a laminotomy.

Laminoplasty: A procedure that reaches the cervical spine (neck) from the back of the neck, which is then reconstructed to make more room for the spinal canal.

Laminotomy: A procedure that removes only a small portion of the lamina (a part of the vertebra) to relieve pressure on the nerve roots.

Micro-discectomy: A procedure that removes a disc through a very small incision using a microscope.

Spinal Laminectomy: A procedure for treating spinal stenosis by relieving pressure on the spinal cord. A part of the lamina (a part of the vertebra) is removed or trimmed to widen the spinal canal and create more space for the spinal nerves.

If your doctor recommends surgery, always ask the purpose of the operation, results you can expect, and possible complications. Feel free to ask for a second opinion if back surgery is suggested; this is your right. Your doctor will be happy to refer you to a specialist to re-evaluate your condition.

Updated on: 08/11/15
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Common and Uncommon Causes of Back Pain
Nicola V. Hawkinson, DNP, RN, RNFA
This article was reviewed by Nicola V. Hawkinson, RN, RNFA, NP.
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