Chronic low back pain can be unbearable. If earlier interventions have not provided you with relief, an orthopedic surgeon may recommend lumbar spine surgery. This treatment gets to the bottom of the issue that is causing your back pain symptoms. Sometimes, it is the best option for long-term relief.
If you, like many others, are anxious about surgery, having a discussion with the doctor can alleviate most of it and get you to look at things more objectively. It helps to know what you can expect during and after lumbar spine surgery, which we discuss below.
What is the Purpose of Lumbar Spine Surgery?
Lumbar spine surgery is performed to treat a variety of conditions that can affect the lower back that causes chronic pain. The goal is to help achieve lasting relief for the patient and to prevent a serious worsening of the condition.
Some of the conditions that can be addressed with lumbar spine surgery are:
- Bone spurs
- Spinal stenosis
- Herniated discs
- Spinal fractures
- Degenerative disc disease
Before the surgery, the patient will undergo several tests, including X-rays, MRIs, and blood work, to evaluate their overall health and identify any potential risks. The surgery is usually performed under general anesthesia, and the duration of the operation depends on the complexity of the procedure.
What is Involved in the Surgery?
The orthopedic surgeon will make an incision to access part of the lumbar spine. An arthroscope, which is a specialized tool, can help them better visualize the area. The next steps of the procedure will depend on the patient’s underlying condition.
The surgeon may apply the following:
- If the problem is nerve compression, the goal of surgery is to relieve pressure on the compressed nerve. A discectomy involves the removal of the herniated portion of the vertebral disc, so it no longer presses against the nerve/s. This may include the removal of any bone spurs that have developed that add to the compression of the spinal nerves.
- To stop motion between two vertebrae that cause pain, the surgeon may perform a spinal fusion after the removal of the herniated portion of the disc. The doctor can also use this to stabilize a fracture in the lumbar region of the spine.
- To address the problem of spinal stenosis, the orthopedic surgeon may perform a laminectomy, which involves enlarging the spinal canal and removing all or part of the lamina, which is the roof of the spinal canal.
Once the surgeon has completed the procedure, they will close the incision with stitches or staples and place a bandage over it. If the orthopedic surgeon uses a minimally invasive technique, the patient can have a faster recovery.
What is Recovery Like from Lumbar Spine Surgery?
The recovery from lumbar surgery depends on the procedure done and whether a minimally invasive technique was used by the surgeon.
Patients in recovery from lumbar spine surgery may need assistance after surgery.
- It is normal to experience stiffness, soreness, and discomfort in the back after surgery. Pain medications prescribed by the surgeon and ice therapy can help manage discomfort. Patients should take medications as directed, including antibiotics to prevent an infection.
- Limitations to mobility are to be expected. Certain motions are to be avoided, at the advice of the doctor. Sitting or standing for extended periods, twisting, and extreme bending motions are usually avoided. Moving around and walking short distances is encouraged to prevent stiffness and promote blood circulation.
- A structured physical therapy and rehabilitation program is usually recommended to aid in the recovery process. These programs focus on exercises to improve strength, flexibility, and overall mobility.
- As to when the patient can return to work, sedentary or office jobs may allow for a return to work within 4 to 6 weeks, while physically demanding jobs may require a longer recovery period, possibly several months. Over time, activities can gradually be reintroduced based on the guidance of the surgeon or physical therapist.
- It’s essential to follow the orthopedic surgeon’s instructions carefully and attend all follow-up appointments to ensure a successful outcome from lumbar surgery.
Top Spine Surgeon in Hartford and Tolland Counties, CT & Springfield, MA
If you are struggling with chronic low back pain, consult with Dr. David Kruger at Advanced Orthopedics New England. With Dr. Kruger, you are in the hands of a highly experienced orthopedic spine surgeon. Dr. Kruger is the Medical Director of the Spine Institute of Connecticut and is backed by a top-notch spinal surgery team.
Schedule your appointment now to find out what we recommend to help you achieve long-term relief from your symptoms. To schedule an appointment, call our orthopedic office near you or use our online form to send a request. We look forward to providing you with the best in spine care!