If you’re here, chances are you’ve been told you need back surgery. Your back pain is unrelenting. Physical therapy, lots of different pain medications, epidural pain injections (EPI), massage therapy, acupuncture, hot and cold compresses — you’ve tried it all, and nothing seems to work anymore. Maybe back surgery wouldn’t be so bad, you think.
Regardless of why you’re here, welcome! We’re glad you stopped by. The goal of this blog is to provide credible, timely information on various surgery options to treat your ailing back. We’ll share some of the latest news and research on spine surgery, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of various procedures, and listen to what you have to say.
Surgery: Yes or no?
Before recent medical advancements, it was common for specialists to cut muscle and bone to reach the region of the spinal canal that needed to be treated. This was traditional open-back spine surgery, and patients who underwent this surgery often had eye-opening stories to tell. Some patients spent months in pain, recovering from the damage done during the open back procedure. Is it any wonder that prospective open-back surgery patients might be reluctant to sign up for surgery, in spite of their pain?
It’s not unusual to hear neck and back pain sufferers repeating their primary care physicians’ warning: “Delay spine surgery for as long as you can — until you can’t handle the pain.” However, this view of spine surgery is outdated, thanks to minimally invasive techniques that have been improved over the last 30 years. Of course, anyone who has neck or back pain should make the best attempt to treat their pain through non-surgical means.
Minimally-invasive spine surgery vs. minimally-invasive spine surgery
When physical therapy, EPI and other treatments no longer work, minimally-invasive spine surgery (MISS) could be the answer — but first, let’s define the terms here.
Generally speaking, the phrase “minimally invasive spine surgery” refers to procedures that require only a stitch or Band-Aid when surgery is completed. This makes MISS very different than open-back spine surgery, and frankly, very attractive. A reasonable option. Yet not all “minimally invasive” spine procedures are truly minimally invasive.
For instance, many MISS procedures use a dilator to insert a hard catheter to hold multiple tools, and diagnostic testing to accurately pinpoint the causes of pain (an MRI, for example) is completed prior to the procedure. One side of the spine is treated at a time, and traditional surgical instruments are used, tearing muscle and drilling bone. Patients who have initially undergone “successful” minimally invasive procedures such as this may learn later they need multiple procedures to fully treat their debilitating pain.
On the other hand, North American Spine’s AccuraScope® procedure uses a very small, flexible catheter — the size of a coffee straw, and in some cases only a needle — to enter the spinal canal. Real-time diagnostic testing to evaluate pain is part of the procedure. Pain mapping, a high-definition camera view of multiple spine levels and nerve monitoring are used to more accurately pinpoint the causes of pain. The tiny catheter maneuvers up and down the lumbar spine to treat multiple pain causes in one procedure, and a targeted laser is typically used to repair damaged discs, minimizing scar tissue. All this is accomplished without tearing muscle or drilling bone.
NEWS AND RESEARCH
Hope for Failed Back Surgery Syndrome patients
Even patients who unsuccessfully tried back surgery before, and now suffer from Failed
Back Surgery Syndrome, can be hopeful today. In a recent survey of 83 AccuraScope patients,
NAS found that pain relief and quality of life improvement for people with previous back surgeries was similar to those who had never had a back surgery before their AccuraScope procedure.
The AccuraScope procedure: what patients say
Although many patients feel immediate pain relief and return to light activities the day following their AccuraScope procedure, every patient’s condition is different, and results can vary. At North American Spine, AccuraScope procedure patients are sharing their own personal experiences, concerns and complaints about various spinal surgery procedures.
Nearly 80 percent of all adults are going to experience back discomfort at some point in their life, and this can range from a simple inconvenience to debilitating pain. While the cause of back pain may be obvious in some situations, many are at a loss of where it is stemming from and what can be done to remedy it. For those that are ready to move past this discomfort naturally, here is a closer look at the most effective back treatment options as well as an overview of back health in general.
Understanding the Causes
The back not only surrounds and supports the spine, it is also comprised of a wide variety of nerve bundles, tendons, bones, cartilage, muscles, and other soft tissue. This means that pain can stem from a wide variety of causes, but the two most common are degenerative issues and mechanical issues. Degenerative conditions, such as osteoporosis, will require a lifestyle change and patients should immediately seek out the assistance of a specialist to discuss their options for long-term treatments. Mechanical damage can stem from a wide variety of catalysts, but it typically means that some form of trauma happened to the area including auto accidents, falling over, lifting heavy items, or even long-term problems with posture and support.
Immediate Changes to Make
As with almost all medical conditions, the first step is to immediately rethink one’s overall health. Whether it is maintaining a healthy weight or mild exercising and stretching at least 5 days a week, this will prepare the body for any long-term remedies that will be used. Good posture is also going to be key during this process and individuals should reevaluate their mattress, the support in their shoes, office chairs, and anywhere else that they spend a large period of time and do not have excellent back support.
If a specialist has been seen, the diet has been changed, and there is no immediate trauma to the back, it is time to begin thinking about long-term health. The easiest way to protect the back is with preventative care to improve overall back health. This means slowly strengthening the supporting muscles in the back as well as promoting flexibility. These two steps can be carried out in a wide variety of ways, but those with back pain should be sure to take this process slowly and pay attention to any signals that their body gives them. If all of these options haven’t resolved the symptoms, spine surgery may be next consideration. Specialists like North American Spine offer minimally invasive procedures to address chronic back pain symptoms, and may be a good place to start if you’ve had an MRI.