A Surgical Option To Treat Lower Back Pain When Nothing Else Works

Posted on: 2 June 2015

You've tried physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and spinal injections, but nothing has stopped the pain you're having in your lower back. At times, you can't find a position for sitting or laying down that's comfortable. When you've tried all of the available non-invasive treatments for back pain, your doctor may recommend a discectomy. Here is how that procedure relieves back pain and what you can expect from this surgery.

Discectomy for Lower Back Pain

A fall or sudden twisting motion of your back can tear one of the cushioning discs in your spine. This causes swelling and irritation of the nerves that travel along the spine. Rest, physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication often help while the disc heals naturally.

When non-invasive treatment doesn't work, a discectomy is an option. This is the removal of a small amount of the disc that is pressing against the nerves. This procedure is done in the hospital and you can expect to stay overnight for observation. You may be given a regional anesthetic to numb you from the waste down, or a general anesthetic to make you sleep during the surgery.

Your orthopedic surgeon will likely perform a microdiscectomy, which requires a small incision in your back and the use of a microscope to view and work with the disc. Small amounts of the disc can be removed this way without damaging other tissues around it.

After Your Discectomy

As soon as the anesthetic wears off, you can get out of bed and walk around. Walking is encouraged to stimulate the circulation in your back which aids in healing. You'll go home the next day after your doctor checks your incision. As the swelling of the irritated tissues in your back goes away, any pain should be relieved.

Your doctor may prescribe physical therapy to strengthen the muscles in your back. You'll also have some exercises to do at home. Walking and exercise will help reduce the chance of scar tissue forming in your back. The scar tissue can reduce the range of motion in your back and make it feel stiff.

You'll be able to go back to work within a few days of the surgery. This depends on how much tissue the surgeon removed. You'll initially have some restrictions as to how much weight you can lift and how long you can sit before you need to get up and exercise. You may also use over-the-counter pain medications for a short while as your back heals.

Surgical Complications

A discectomy is a common orthopedic procedure to treat severe back pain. Most people have no complications from the procedure, however, all surgery carries some risks. Your doctor will have you look for signs of problems such as:

  • drainage from the incision
  • redness, swelling and warmth at the incision
  • pain when you press on the incision

These can mean an infection has set in. If minor, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. If they suspect a deep infection, they may need to open the incision to flush the tissue with an antibiotic solution.

If you have no complications from the surgery, you should be pain free in a few weeks and back to your normal work and recreational activities. For more information, contact a company like Family Medical Clinic.