If you’re struggling with chronic back pain or neck pain and have not found much relief from medication, injections or physical therapy, you may be thinking about surgery as a last resort.
Spine surgeries are serious, which is why orthopedic specialists tend to only recommend surgery if they are confident the condition will respond well to surgical treatment, or all other feasible non-invasive options have been exhausted.
Spinal fusion surgery involves joining two or more vertebrae (small, interconnected bones that form the spine) into one bone. Fusing the bones means there’s no longer any space between the vertebrae. This can decrease a person’s flexibility, but the tradeoff can be less pain during movement.
Spinal fusion is one of several surgical options used to treat spinal diseases and injuries. You may benefit from this type of surgery if your chronic pain stems from one of the following conditions:
- Scoliosis: A sideways curvature of the spine
- Degenerative disc disease: Your spinal discs lose their inherent cushioning, causing pain in the neck or lower back
- Herniated discs
- Spondylolisthesis: A condition caused by one vertebra slipping onto another vertebra below it, resulting in extreme pain
- Spine infection
- Fractured spinal bones
What Happens During Spinal Fusion Surgery?
Spinal fusion is done under general anesthesia, meaning you’ll be asleep during the operation. If your own bone is used for the fusion, your doctor will make an incision right above your hip and remove a bone graft. Your bone graft may also come from a donor and will be harvested before the surgery.
If you’re having surgery on the low back, you will lie on your stomach and your surgeon will make an incision right over your spine. Patients undergoing surgery on the cervical spine in the neck will lie on their back with the doctor will make an incision in the front of the neck.
After making an incision, your surgeon will remove the disc between the two vertebrae using a high-speed drill and other surgical instruments. They will then insert the harvested bone graft into the now empty space between the two vertebrae. At this point the surgeon may also place a metal plate with screws over the graft to hold the vertebrae together until they fuse into one continuous bone.
To conclude the procedure, your surgeon will close the incision with stiches. You’ll be moved to a recovery area, where nurses and other medical professionals will monitor your vital signs and administer fluids and medication to alleviate your post-surgery pain.
What Does Recovery from Spinal Fusion Surgery Look Like?
Your immediate recovery will take place at the hospital where you will stay for approximately four days. People with other medical conditions may be required to stay longer, but usually no more than a week.
During your time at the hospital, your heart rate will be monitored, and you’ll receive fluids and possibly pain medication through an IV. You’ll also have a catheter inserted in your body to collect urine.
Remaining bedridden will allow your back to heal as you get ready for the next stage in your recovery. Before you’re released from the hospital, you’ll likely work with an occupational therapist who will teach you how to perform everyday activities safely during your recovery, like how to walk or get into and out of bed.
At-home recovery will consist of physical therapy and regular follow-up appointments with your doctor to ensure proper spine healing. It may take a year for your body to fully heal. During this time you’ll have to avoid any strenuous activities, including bending and heavy lifting.
While both surgery and recovery may seem lengthy, if you commit to the process, you’ll likely experience a significant reduction in pain. To keep your neck pain, back pain and other spinal problems at bay, be sure to lead a healthy lifestyle, which includes a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Find the Best Treatment for Your Pain at AllSpine Laser and Surgery Center in Georgia
If you live with chronic back pain, you know how difficult everyday life can be. Talk to one of our experienced doctors who will diagnose you and establish the best treatment plan for your unique situation. We offer a variety of pain management options, including regenerative or pain management injections, spinal cord stimulation and surgery.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (770) 997-0600