Sometimes, surgery is necessary if your back pain is untreatable with physical therapy or other non-invasive procedures. It is important to look over all of your options and discuss them with your family as well as your care team before making a decision. Here at Prairie Spine, we are happy to help guide you through the different options, so if you are considering surgery or other treatment, contact us! If you are interested in understanding the different kinds of lower back surgery, continue reading.
The type of back surgery you may need depends on what’s causing your back pain. Procedures that treat compression of the spinal cord, such as laminectomy and spinal fusion, are among the most common lower back surgeries.
Back pain is common and has many different causes. According to a 2021 report, 39% of adults — and 45.6% of adults over 65 — experienced back pain in the last 3 months.
Lower back pain can often be eased with conservative methods such as non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or physical therapy. If your pain doesn’t respond to these treatments, or you have a back injury that could cause severe complications, you may need surgery.
Many types of surgery are used to treat lower back pain. The type of surgery you may need depends on what’s causing your back pain.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common surgeries for lower back pain.
Artificial disk replacement
Artificial disk replacement surgery is used to treat back pain caused by a damaged or worn out disk between the vertebrae (small bones in your spine). It involves replacing the damaged disk with an artificial one, while maintaining normal motion of your spine.
In a 2018 review, researchers reported:
- satisfaction rates from 75.5% to 93.3%
- complication rates from 0% to 34.4%
- a reoperation rate of 12.1%
Spinal fusion is a procedure where a surgeon removes one or more disks from between your vertebrae and fuses your vertebrae together. This surgery limits the mobility of your spine in the area that’s fused together. It’s used to relieve back pain and other symptoms in people with spinal instability that’s caused by:
- herniated disk
- spinal stenosis
- degenerative disk disease
Most studies report success rates of spinal fusion for degenerative disk disease between 84% to 92%Trusted Source.
A spinal laminectomy is done to treat spinal stenosis, a condition where the spinal cord or nerve roots are compressed by the vertebral bones. This procedure involves removing the lamina of a vertebrae to decompress the spinal cord. The lamina is the bony arch on the back of each of your vertebrae.
According to medical experts, laminectomy has:
- a success rate of about 90%
- patient satisfaction rates above 75%
- reoperation rates of about 18% within 5 years
What is the most common lower back surgery?
Surgery for treating spinal stenosis is the most performed type of back surgery in adults. A laminectomy is usually the preferred procedure used to treat spinal stenosis.
Spinal fusion may be equally common, or more common, in people over the age of 80.
In a 2019 review, researchers analyzed the most common spinal procedure performed on adults ages 80–100 in the United States by looking at three surgical databases.
They found that spinal fusion was the most common procedure in two of the databases, making up 48.9% and 46.2% of spinal surgeries. Laminectomy and a similar surgery called laminotomy were the most common procedures in the third database, making up 51.8% of procedures.
The recovery time for lower back surgery depends on the type surgery as well other factors such as:
- the complexity and severity of your symptoms
- your overall health
- your level of physical activity and fitness
- your age
It generally takes 4–6 weeks to return to work after surgery to treat lower spinal cord compression.
For spinal fusion, you may need to take 4–6 weeks off work if you’re younger and not working a strenuous job. Older adults, or people whose jobs frequently require bending, lifting, or turning, may need to take off 4–6 months.