Lower back pain is extremely common. Disc degeneration seen on lumbar MRIs is also extremely common. It is so common that disc degeneration is no longer considered a disease, rather, a typical age-related change in the disc. There is a lot of disagreement as to specifically where the lower back pain originates. There is even more disagreement within the scientific community on how to best treat lower back pain and degenerative discs.
What is known is that lower back pain (with or without disc degeneration) is a relatively safe, albeit painful, condition. There is minimal risk that nerve damage or paralysis will occur. Most often we will recommend a therapy program for several months and a course of pain management before recommending surgery.
Surgery for Degenerative Disc Disease and Lower Back Pain
Many clinical trials have shown that surgery for lower back pain has some benefits, but is by no means a cure. Additionally, chronic lower back pain patients often have other conditions that can negatively affect their surgical results. These include fibromyalgia, depression/anxiety, chronic narcotic use and chronic disability.
Results from surgery vary greatly and only a surgeon can determine which patients are good candidates for surgical treatment. While most patients report a reduction in pain after surgery, no guarantee can be made regarding the outcome of any spinal operation much less one done for the sole purpose of low back pain.
If you are considering lumbar fusion for treatment of lower back pain, it is important to understand that there is a small possibility your pain will remain the same (or even worsen) after surgery, even if the procedure is done without complication. This may lead you to believe that the operation did not work. You should carefully consider this possibility beforehand and discuss it with your surgeon.
Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery
Minimally invasive surgery techniques have been developed to minimize the amount of soft tissue damage and blood loss that occurs with traditional, open lumbar fusion. Reduced operative time, a shorter hospital stay, and a faster recovery are just several advantages of minimally invasive techniques. Our priority is to provide our patients with the best care. The minimally invasive spine surgical techniques we perform are those shown to be safe and most effective to treat your spinal problem.