What are the common spinal conditions that cause low back pain?
Low back pain is often a common symptom of most spinal conditions which can result from sudden injury to the muscles, ligaments, bones, and nerves in your spine. Common spinal conditions that can cause low back pain include herniated disc, spinal stenosis, scoliosis, kyphosis, muscle strain or spasm and fracture of the spine caused by osteoporosis. Rarely, arthritic conditions of the spine, spine tumors and infections (osteomyelitis, discitis) can also cause low back pain.
What is degenerative disc disease?
This is a condition where the intervertebral discs, the gel-like material between the vertebrae, has begun to wear out due to aging, repetitive stress, smoking, genetics, etc. In most circumstances the cause is multi-factorial, and unless there is compression of the nerves or spinal cord, it will not improve with surgery. It is a very common condition that may not cause symptoms in many people.
What is a herniated disc?
A herniated disc is also called a bulging disc, ruptured disc, or slipped disc. It occurs when the inner core of the spinal disc pushes out through the outer layer of the disc. This causes pressure on nearby nerves leading to low back or neck pain depending on where the bulging disc is located.
What types of conditions warrant surgery?
Again, most patients who experience neck or back pain will not require surgery and will improve with conservative management. Pain that radiates down the arms or legs, and neurological signs such as weakness, numbness, balance difficulty, bowel/bladder problems, are some symptoms that may benefit from surgical decompression.
How do I know if I am a candidate for spine surgery?
The majority of degenerative conditions that may require or benefit from spinal surgery are those where there is pain that radiates down the arms or legs, have associated numbness or weakness, and have not improved with non-operative care. Spine surgery is considered as a last resort as many patients improve with more conservative treatments first. Your primary care physician should begin treatment with these modalities, and if things do not improve it is time to consult with a spine surgeon.
What are the advantages of minimally invasive surgery? Can spinal surgeries be done using minimally invasive method?
Minimally invasive surgery is a technique where surgeries can be performed through small incisions with the use of special devices such as an arthroscope or laparoscope. The advantages of minimally invasive surgery include:
- Smaller incisions
- Shorter stay in the hospital
- Less post-operative pain
- Short recovery period
- Less damage to muscles and soft tissues
- Minimal blood loss during surgery
- Less risk of infection because of smaller cuts
Spinal surgeries may also be done using minimally invasive techniques. Some of the spinal surgeries done by minimally invasive technique include:
- Spinal fusion
- Deformity correction (scoliosis)
- Herniated disc repair
Will physical therapy be required after surgery?
Obtaining full range of motion, strength and flexibility back after surgery usually takes time. That’s where pre-operative exercise and education and post-operative physical therapy programs come in – to ensure you’re physically and emotionally prepared for surgery and to maximize your recovery after surgery.
What are the post-operative precautions I need to practice following a spine surgery?
After the surgery, your orthopedic surgeon may recommend you practice several measures to ensure the best recovery and avoid possible complications. Some of them include:
- No bending, lifting or twisting for three months following fusion surgery
- Do limit your activities
- Incision care – Keep the incisions clean and dry
- Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation
- Follow the instructions given by your doctor regarding the medications to be taken