When you are suffering from unrelenting back pain, you may feel as if you are willing to do anything to alleviate your pain, even if it means having back surgery. And when people think of back surgery, they often envision a spinal fusion–that is, a surgical procedure in which damaged portions of the spinal column are removed, and two or more vertebrae are treated so that they ultimately fuse together into one unit. However with current technology spinal fusions don’t have the same recovery as they used to, and most people are able to return to a high level of activity.
But spinal fusion is not the only option available for severe back pain that may be caused by conditions such as degenerative disc disease or spinal stenosis, although it may be called for in some cases. In fact, there may be less-invasive alternatives developed over the last decade. Consequently, if you have back pain, don’t assume that the only remedy is a major back surgery.
What Are the Most Effective Spinal Fusion Alternatives?
There are numerous alternative treatments you can explore besides major surgery like spinal fusion. To determine which alternative procedure would be best for you, it will depend on exactly what is causing your back pain. In some cases, there may be more than one option.
At the St. Charles Spine Institute, our digital patient education library offers webinars, health videos, and downloadable brochures that can help you understand more about the different treatments available. To help you get started, here are a few treatment options that have proven effective in alleviating back pain for our patients.
Epidural Steroid Injections
If your discomfort is caused by disc herniation or spinal stenosis compressing your nerves, epidural steroid injections (ESI’s) may offer a non-surgical way to eliminate your pain. This injection can be administered into your lumbar spine (lower back) to ease lower back and leg pain by reducing the inflammation contributing to nerve compression.
Steroid injections also work well on the cervical spine (neck area) and relieve pain that can affect the upper back, neck, arms, and shoulders. ESI’s reduce swelling and treat inflammation in the areas where they are administered, making them a non-invasive way to treat back pain that requires very little recovery time. However, depending upon the root cause of your back pain, ESI’s are not always effective for long-term relief.
Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cell therapy is another alternative method of addressing back pain. Stem cells have the special characteristic of being capable of developing into cells of different types of body tissues. Stem cells can actually develop into cells that repair damaged portions of your body, including discs and facet joints.
In this procedure, the stem cells come from your own body. Bone marrow will be retrieved from the iliac crest of your hip bone and broken down until only the stem cells remain. Once the stem cells have been isolated from the plasma and red blood cells, they will be injected into the affected area to stimulate regeneration of the damaged tissue. This minimally invasive treatment is safe, and typically takes less than an hour to complete. Recovery time is also minimal.
Artificial Disc Replacement
For many individuals, a severely deteriorated spinal disc is the cause of their pain. In that case, artificial disc replacement is a treatment option that offers increased mobility and decreased recovery time compared to a spinal fusion. Although it is still surgery, the recovery is usually faster than spinal fusion.
Another advantage of artificial disc replacement is that it has less of an impact on spinal mobility. By replacing the damaged disc only, a patient is able to regain almost all natural movement of their spine following recovery. What is more, artificial disc replacement surgery can be performed laparoscopically, with minimal invasion. Consequently, the patient is sedated for only a short period of time, and recovery is relatively quick.
If you have serious back pain and are hesitant to address it out of concern that you may have to have major spinal surgery, don’t sit on the sidelines and try to cope with your pain. Not only may you end up causing further injury or degeneration, but you may find that we can address your pain and heal your back problem through less aggressive methods. Contact St. Charles Spine Institute today and set up an appointment through an office visit or, if appropriate, through a telemed consultation, and let us find a solution for your back pain.