Surgical vs Nonsurgical back pain Treatments: All You need to know

Jun 23, 2022

You might have been experiencing some pain in your back lately and are not sure how bad it is and what back pain treatment you need to go for. Treating back pain can be a little tricky as there could be various reasons for its occurrence. These reasons can be as minor as pulling a muscle to as serious as rupturing a spinal disc. Depending on the cause of back pain, there are different back pain treatments one can use.

In this article, we will educate you on some of the most effective back pain treatments available (both surgical and non-surgical) that would put you in a better position to decide which spine treatment is better for you.

Surgical Back Pain Treatments

Surgical back pain treatments involve the usage of invasive techniques to treat severe back-related issues. Medical professionals who perform these surgeries are normally Neurosurgeons with a specialty in spinal surgeries.

Who Qualifies for Surgical Spine Treatments?

In general, patients who have chronic severe pain or a serious disability from their back condition qualify for surgical treatment. The type of surgery you might need depends on what type of back problem you have, how severe your symptoms are, and how long they've been present. Following conditions are treated using surgical spine treatments;

  • Herniated Disc
  • Degenerative disc
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Scoliosis
  • Spinal Deformities

Types of Surgical Spinal treatments

Choosing surgery as a back pain treatment option can be a major decision. In addition to the benefits and risks of the surgery, there are several factors that affect the decision to have surgery. Your surgeon will help you decide which treatment is best for your particular situation. Given below are some of the most common surgical back pain treatments;

Spinal Fusion Surgery

Spinal fusion surgery is a surgical procedure in which the bones of the spine (vertebrae) are moved together and joined with a bone graft. It is one of very few back pain treatments which have a high success ratio. In this procedure, a damaged disc is removed and replaced with bone graft material. The bone graft material is taken from a part of the patient’s body or the bone bank. It is then placed where the fusion is required. The new bone grows and joins the vertebrae together.

Benefits of spinal fusion surgery include:

  • Minimizing pain and disability
  • Preventing further injury to the spine
  • Removing pressure on nerves and blood vessels in the back
  • Reducing the risk of complications from further degeneration

Read in-depth: All You Need to Know About Spinal Fusion

After 2 to 3 days of the surgery, doctors will discharge you. However, complete recovery after spinal fusion surgery will take 3 to 6 months. During this time, you will visit physiotherapists regularly, have the prescribed medicine, and take all the precautionary measures to ensure a smooth recovery.

Lumbar Laminectomy

It is a surgical spine treatment that is used to treat conditions like spinal stenosis or narrowing of the spinal canal. Such a condition is normally caused by a herniated or bulging disc in the lower back area which puts pressure on the spinal nerves causing pain to the person. What the surgeon does is that he/she makes an incision near your lower back and removes the thin lamina to make space for the spinal nerves. It takes off the pressure from the nerves and relieves pain.

After Lumbar Laminectomy you can expect;

  • Pressure relief from spinal nerves
  • Improvement in the functionality of the lower back and legs
  • Reduction in the pain
  • Less numbness and tingling in the legs
  • Recovery of strength

Read more: Lumbar Laminectomy Surgery: Procedure, Risks and Recovery

It can take a couple of months before you can go back to your normal routine. The recovery period requires special attention for a complete and comfortable rehabilitation. Patients are advised to regularly visit their doctors to ensure a smooth recovery.

Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery

As the name suggests, artificial disc replacement surgery is the process of replacing a damaged or degenerated disc with an artificial one. The discs we have in our spine might get damaged due to an accident or wear and tear over the years. A damaged disc causes pain and extreme discomfort to a person. The surgeon makes an incision in the back and replaces the damaged disc with an artificial disc.
Artificial disc replacement is preferred over other surgeries because it allows the person to move, bends, twist, and flex his spine like before.

Read more: Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery: All You Need to Know!

The patient can resume desk work after one week of the surgery, however, to go back to the same life as before, it might take 3 months, give or take a few days. Physical therapies and regular visits to the doctor's office are recommended.

Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Minimally invasive spine surgery involves the usage of endoscopic instruments for surgeries. In this method, the surgeon makes a very small incision through which an endoscopic instrument can pass into the body. Once the instrument is in, the rest of the surgery is performed with the help of a camera and micro tools it carries inside. The surgeon views the interior of the body on a computer screen.

Read more: Getting A Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery In Los Angeles

Minimally invasive spine treatments have many benefits;

  • The recovery rate is faster
  • The patient doesn’t have to go through a lot of pain
  • A small incision means little
  • Fewer complications
  • Less postoperative care required

Nonsurgical Back Pain Treatments

At times, treatments for back pain do not require the patient to go through an invasive surgical procedure. If the back pain is due to a muscle pull, strain, or sprain, it is recommended that you try nonsurgical back pain treatments. However, you need to make sure that the pain is not due to a major spinal injury. You can do that by conducting diagnostic tests for spine injury. We have discussed some of the most effective nonsurgical back pain treatments below.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can help strengthen muscles around the spine, improve flexibility and range of motion, and ease nerve pain. You can seek the help of a physical therapist for guidance. A physical therapist's job is to help you get back on track. They'll work with you to develop a routine that will improve your overall health and well-being. A physical therapist will also teach you exercises that can help control pain and prevent injury.

Other than physical therapies, you can also treat your back pain with the help of heat and ice therapies.

Heat & Ice Therapies

  • Heat therapy is often used as a back pain treatment. This type of treatment involves applying heat to the sore or injured area to help it recover faster and reduce pain. Heat therapy can be used alone or in combination with other back pain treatments.
  • Ice therapy is another treatment option that can be used to relieve symptoms of back pain. You can place ice packs directly on the painful area to reduce swelling and inflammation, as well as ease pain by relieving stiffness and pressure. Ice packs can be applied for 15 minutes at a time for 10 to 15 minutes on each side of the body every hour or every other hour as needed, depending on your specific needs and aches and pains.

Back Pain Treatment with Massage

Massage is another useful nonsurgical back pain treatment. It is extremely helpful to reduce inflammation in your back and relieve muscle tension; it also improves blood flow to the affected area of your back. If you have severe lower back pain or osteoarthritis, massage may be able to reduce some symptoms of those conditions as well. It is better to have a person help you with massage but no worries if you don’t have anyone available. Self-massage tools are easily available online.

Exercises for Back Pain Treatment

Regular exercise can help prevent or relieve chronic lower back pain by strengthening muscles around your spine and improving flexibility in your hips and shoulders. Exercises such as walking, swimming, biking, or dancing are all examples of low-impact activities you can perform at home without equipment or special shoes.

Many forms of yoga are also effective forms of exercise to improve your overall health while reducing symptoms of chronic back pain. There are different yoga positions you can try to target your back muscles. For example;

  • Cat/Cow
  • Planks
  • Sphinx
  • Bridges
  • Lateral stretches
  • Forward fold

Changing Lifestyle for Back Pain Treatment

Back pain is often due to poor posture and a lack of movement. This is one of the most overlooked causes of back pain. Before trying any other nonsurgical back pain treatments, it makes sense to make sure that you are doing the following things right;

  • Maintain a good posture (standing up straight and keeping your shoulders back) and get some exercise throughout the day, even if it's just walking around your office building.
  • If you're overweight, losing weight can help reduce pain and improve your overall health.
  • Try to avoid tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine — all of these substances can make your symptoms worse.
  • Avoid sleeping in the same position all night long. If you sleep on your stomach, try sleeping on your side instead. You can also use a pillow between your legs or elevate them off the mattress to help alleviate any pressure on your lower back while sleeping.

Medication for Back Pain Treatment

Medication is also one of the nonsurgical back pain treatments that doctors often recommend. In case the back pain becomes unbearable, you can try some over-the-counter medicines. It is highly recommended that you use only the prescribed medication for the reason that self-medication can be dangerous when used to cure back pain. Generally, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reduce inflammation in your back and may help relieve some of the pain you feel from an injury or from chronic back pain. If NSAIDs don't provide enough relief, you may want to try medications that have stronger anti-inflammatory effects such as COX-2 inhibitors or acetaminophen (Tylenol).

Deciding between Surgical and Nonsurgical Back Pain Treatments

Diagnosing the cause of back pain should precede the decision of choosing the suitable spine treatment. Surgical back pain treatments are preferred when the spine is damaged due to an injury that resulted in the deformation of spinal bones. In such a situation, there is no point in using nonsurgical back pain treatments as it will only worsen the situation by lingering. On the other hand, nonsurgical treatments are effective to cure mild back pain arising out of muscle pull and stress.

See an Expert for Back Pain Treatment

We hope this article helped you understand what surgical and nonsurgical treatments are and which treatment is preferred in a given situation. However, in order to reach the decision about choosing the right back pain treatment, it is vital that you consult a doctor.
Here at Southern California Brain & Spine Surgery, we have Dr. Moksha Ranasinghe who is one of the best spine specialists in Los Angeles. You can read her patients' reviews on Yelp and Healthgrades. In order schedule an appointment, fill out the contact form or call at (213) 369-4583.