Back pain is sometimes treatable without surgery, but surgery may be the best option when the pain is chronic and is becoming unbearable. Spine surgery is highly successful in reducing pain and improving the patient’s quality of life.
In a healthy spine, the vertebrae are held together by discs composed of cartilage that act as cushions which absorb shock, such as from walking or running. Each set of two adjacent vertebrae are separated by a protective disc. However, worn-out or damaged discs can bulge out, compressing the nerves in the spinal cord and causing back pain; they can also be degraded to the point that they no longer cushion the vertebrae anymore, so the bones rub and scrape against each other, causing pain.
Two of the main options in repairing this issue are artificial disc replacement and spinal fusion. Each option has its own set of benefits and implications. Let’s take a look at these two types of back surgeries and how they help provide much-needed relief from back pain.
Benefits of Spinal Fusion
Since prosthetic disc replacement is a relatively new procedure, spinal fusion has been the more traditional treatment method. It eliminates motion in the problematic section of the spine and permanently connects two or more vertebrae.
The surgeon will first remove the damaged disc and will then enable the adjacent vertebrae to fuse together, thereby stabilizing the spine. To fuse the vertebrae, doctors may utilize a bone graft using bone tissue from another part of the patient’s body. Other materials, like metal pins and plates, can also be used to facilitate fusion.
In addition to addressing herniated discs, spinal fusion can also repair the following conditions:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Ankylosing spondylitis
How Artificial Discs Repair the Spine
In a disc replacement, prosthetic (artificial) discs simulate the original, natural discs. These implants are permanently attached to the two adjacent vertebrae’s inner surfaces, allowing movement between the vertebrae. Compare this to spinal fusion, in which there is no more movement in that one spot of the spine.
The initial steps of disc replacement are similar to those of spinal fusion. After the surgeon removes the worn-out or damaged disc, the artificial disc is inserted in its place.
Generally, disc replacement is better-suited for relatively healthy spines with only a localized problem area. However, broader conditions such as scoliosis and obesity are usually better served with spinal fusion.
Treatment for Back Pain in Colorado
You and your spine surgeon can discuss how to best treat the particular cause of your back pain. Whether you opt for pain-relief injections, spinal fusion, disc replacement, or another treatment, the ultimate goal is to achieve maximum relief from your back pain and to optimize the movability in your back.
With several locations across Colorado, our medical team at Front Range Spine and Neurosurgery provides patient-centered care for intracranial and spinal conditions – treating everything from back pain to brain cancer. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation, contact our caring staff today by calling (303) 790-1800 or by filling out our easy-to-use appointment request form online now. We look forward to helping you live a more pain-free lifestyle!