Lower back pain can be caused by many different injuries and anomalies, but in most cases the problem is rooted in a problem with one of the discs that serve as shock absorbers between the spine’s 24 vertebrae. Our spines evolved in an ingenious way, developing with these intermittent discs rather than as a single uninterrupted column of bone in order to provide flexibility.
Unfortunately, for all of the brilliance of its design, the discs that provide us with the level of mobility that allows us to pursue our labors alike and interest are vulnerable to damage, and when this happens it leads to pain that can be relentless.
The good news is that if you are one of the millions of Americans who suffer from chronic back pain, there are a number of highly effective solutions available, and we provide them at our spine specialty practice in New Jersey.
No matter how great or constant their suffering, many back pain sufferers avoid seeking medical attention because they fear surgery. In many cases, surgery is not necessary and conservative approaches involving exercise and massage therapy or medications provide the relief that is needed. For those whose discs are so damaged that surgery is deemed the best option, innovations in treatment have provided surgical techniques that are far less invasive, with smaller incisions, less pain and risk, and faster recovery.
If your discs are badly damaged, you may be a candidate for either spinal fusion or artificial disc replacement. These two procedures are quite different but equally effective. Which is best for you will be a matter of discussion between you and your surgeon.
Here’s what you need to know about these two procedures:
- Spinal fusion involves removal of the damaged disc, followed by a fusion of the vertebrae above and below. Though effective, the procedure can create a lack of mobility, and puts pressure on the two discs on either side of the vertebrae.
- Artificial disc replacement involves removal of the damaged disc, followed by slipping an artificial disc where it had been positioned. This procedure allows mobility similar to what the patient enjoyed prior to damaging their disc. It also eliminates the risk of additional pressure on neighboring discs.
Both procedures are effective, but certain characteristics reduce your candidacy for artificial disc replacement. Patients who smoke, are obese or who suffer from specific conditions or infections are not eligible for disc replacement, and the same is true for those who require attention in multiple areas of their spine. Artificial disc replacement is generally most appropriate for patients who have a single disc causing them pain.
Deciding which course of action is most appropriate for you requires a careful evaluation of your condition and a discussion with our qualified spinal surgeon. To set up an appointment, contact us today.