Surgical Procedures For Back Injuries
Back pain is very common and can be debilitating; whether minor or major, it can stop you in your tracks and keep you from enjoying a fully functioning lifestyle. This includes lost work time and the inability to enjoy time with family and friends. Left untreated, it can cause other issues. The following are statistics from the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) on back pain.
- Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the Global Burden of Disease 2010.
- One-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year.
- Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work. In fact, back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections.
- Most cases of back pain are mechanical or non-organic—meaning they are not caused by serious conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, infection, fracture or cancer.
- Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on back pain.
- Experts estimate that as many as 80% of the population will experience a back problem at some time in our lives.
Although back pain can stem from back injuries due to a wide range of reasons, they are also the most common injury in car accidents. According to a website about car accidents, “The impact of a car accident and the resulting torque on the bodies of drivers and passengers can cause back injuries such as a sprain, strain, fracture, disc injury, thoracic spine injury, lumbar radiculopathy, and lumbar spine injury.” These injuries are serious because the back is such a large muscle, and plays such
a vital role in the movement and support of the body; likely resulting in surgical procedures when conventional treatments such as physical therapy, injections, or acupuncture don’t work.
The goal of back surgery is to relieve or eliminate pain caused by the injury and have many benefits and risks. Benefits include better mood, better physical fitness, less need for pain medication, ability to return to work, and increased productivity at work. Not all patients respond well to back surgery, and the risks include: reaction to anesthesia or other drugs, bleeding, infection, blood clots, heart attack, stroke, recurrent dis herniation, and nerve damage. Nerve damage can result in weakness, paralysis, pain, sexual dysfunction, or loss of bowel or bladder control. The various options for surgical procedures are:
Spinal fusion is one of the most common type of back surgery. The vertebrae are fused together, restricting movement between the bones and nerves, which reduces or eliminates pain.
In this procedure, surgeons remove parts of the bone, bone spurs, or ligaments in the back, which relieves pressure on the spinal nerves that may be causing pain or weakness.
During this procedure, a surgeon will cut away bone at the sides of the vertebrae to widen the space where nerve roots exit the spine. The enlarged space is intended to relieve pressure on the nerves, resulting in pain relief.
The cushion that separates vertebrae in the spine can be shifted when injured. This puts pressure on the spinal nerves and cause pain. In this procedure, the surgeon removes all or part of the discs with a large or small incision from the outside of the body. This procedure compliments other surgeries.
The surgeon replaces damaged spinal discs with an artificial one between the vertebrae. This procedure has gained popularity as an alternative to spinal fusion, and permits continued motion of the spine; resulting in shorter recovery time than spinal fusion.
Although not considered a surgery, this alternative treatment is a steroid injection to help reduce swelling and pain. Often times, this is enough to relive the pain from injury, however, it’s usually the initial treatment and if it doesn’t work, surgery or other interventions may be needed.
Back pain is a real consequence of injury or car accidents no matter the circumstances or who is at fault. Because the back is at the core of the body, surgery is often needed to treat the injury and relieve the pain. Some surgeries result in structural changes of the spine and many require a recovery period. Some may require additional physical therapy to improve strength, flexibility, and overall functionality; and in some cases, one surgery may not be enough. Because the back is so large, the variables and responses vary by person and injury severity, so it is always important to seek and follow doctor advice.