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Back pain affects millions people worldwide and is the most common reason people miss work or visit the doctor. Symptoms can vary depending on the cause, and treatment is based on the severity. After attempting multiple treatments, you and your doctor can decide if surgery is the best option for you.
Back Pain Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis
Common causes of back pain include muscle strain, bulging or ruptured disks, arthritis, and osteoporosis. Depending on the cause, you may experience aching, shooting, burning, or stabbing sensations that can radiate down the leg when walking, bending, or lifting.
If your back pain does not get better after a few days of rest, it is best to see your doctor. Your doctor can perform an x-ray, CT, or MRI to determine the cause of the pain and establish a treatment plan.
Initially, your doctor will most likely look at non-surgical options. They may prescribe over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen and topical pain relievers such as ointments or patches to be placed over the painful area. Muscle relaxants and opioids may also be prescribed if needed.
Physical therapy can also be helpful, as therapists help strengthen the muscles to improve posture and flexibility. They can also teach you how to modify movements and continue to be active while minimizing pain.
Cortisone injections are also a popular treatment as the medication is injected into the joint. This decreases inflammation and pain, but it is usually only temporary. Likely, you will need multiple injections in a year if you need long-term relief.
Cortisone injections are often used in conjunction with physical therapy, especially if the therapy is too painful to be effective. With the injections, you can more easily work through the therapy, strengthening the muscles that may be causing you pain. Ideally, this makes future injections unnecessary.
Most back pain can be fixed without surgery, and surgical treatment is often the last option for back pain. However, if your back pain is chronic and does not respond to any non-surgical treatments, talking to a spine surgeon may be the next option for you.
Most of the issues that require back surgery affect or could affect your spinal cord. For example, if you’re experiencing weakness, numbness, or even a loss of bowel or bladder control because of spinal damage, your chiropractor will likely refer you to a surgeon. This nerve damage may be caused by a slipped disk, an infection, a broken bone, or another spinal health issue. Your surgeon can discuss your options with you so you can make the best choice.
Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery
If surgical treatment is warranted, minimally invasive spine surgery can be an excellent option for you. During minimally invasive spinal surgery, the surgeon uses only a tiny incision to view and operate on the spine. This surgery can be used to treat herniated discs, spinal stenosis, spinal deformities, spinal instability, spondylolysis, spinal fractures, spinal tumors, and spinal infections. Because this incision is small, there is less pain and a faster recovery time.
This surgery can often be done as an outpatient procedure, so most people will return home the same day. You may have bending and lifting restrictions, be required to wear a back brace, or need physical therapy for a short time afterwards to strengthen the muscles around the spine. In any case, you should always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.
After your doctor diagnoses the cause of your back pain, creating a treatment plan is essential. If non-surgical treatment is not effective, surgery may be the best course of action. Since minimally invasive spine surgery can have greater benefits with less pain and a faster recovery time, you should ask your surgeon about this option. Discuss with your surgeon to find out what works best for you.