Low back pain can be disabling; however, most cases heal with time (2-12 weeks) and with conservative therapy. Surgery is suggested when symptoms persist and begin to affect daily activities. Low back surgery may be indicated for treating various underlying causes of back pain such as spinal fractures, degenerative disc disease, nerve compression, stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal), tumors, infection, instability or bowel and bladder difficulties.
Surgery is usually suggested by your doctor once conservative measures have failed to relieve pain. In rare cases, such as cauda equina syndrome, where there is a high risk of developing permanent paralysis, or bowel and bladder difficulties, surgery may need to be performed on an emergency basis.
Some low back surgeries include:
- Discectomy: The herniated soft interior of an intervertebral disc (spongy discs of tissue that cushion the bones in the spinal cord) is removed to release pressure on a compressed nerve.
- Laminectomy: Bone and/or thickened tissue narrowing the spinal canal is removed to release pressure on a compressed nerve.
- Spinal fusion: Spine movement is reduced by fusion of the vertebral segments.
- Removal of spinal tumors
- Debridement of the spine: Infected, abnormal or dead tissue is removed.
Many low back surgeries are performed through minimal invasive techniques to reduce pain and the hospital stay. Recovery after low back surgery may take 3-12 months. Physical therapy is recommended following surgery to improve flexibility, strengthen the back and stomach muscles, and help you return to your regular activities.