What is a spinal fusion surgery?

A welding process, spinal fusion is a small surgical procedure that helps in correcting the issues with the small bones in the spinal cord. It will help reduce and heal the pain by fusing all the bones of the vertebrae into one solid bone, thereby eliminating the painful motion of the spine segments.

You will go in for this surgery when movement of the vertebral segments is the source of your back pain. This can be done only when your doctor points out the exact cause of your pain as the movement of the vertebral segments. If the doctor diagnoses that you are suffering from spinal instability, a curvature or severe degeneration of one or more of disks, he may suggest for spinal fusion surgery. This surgery may relieve you from various back problems like degenerative disk disease, scoliosis, fractured vertebra, tumor, infection in bones and a herniated disk. Spinal fusion surgery is based on the theory that if the movement of the painful spine segments is arrested, then you can be relieved from the pain.

Several different techniques are involved in spinal fusion surgery. Many of the surgical procedures require the use of a type of bone material called a bone graft to fuse the vertebrae. They use screws, rods or a cage to keep your spine stable while healing is done by the bone graft.

Spinal fusion surgery can be done through your abdomen, sides, back or from the front of the spine. Sometimes, depending on the position and the level of pain, a combination of all these procedures is also done. Making a small opening next to your tailbone is also done as a procedure to do the spinal fusion surgery. However, so far, none of the processes has been proven to be better than the other procedure.

Depending on the intensity of the pain and situation of the vertebrae, the results of the spinal surgery vary from person to person. It can be very effective in some cases, will not be of any use in some instances or partially useful in some cases. It may be several months or even a year before you can recover fully. Meanwhile, you have to take proper movement, reposition, how to walk about, and move about while healing is taking place.

How can lower back pain affect me?

Any acute low back pain can cause a temporary hassle in one’s life but can naturally get resolved on its own within 2-4 weeks. If the symptoms of back pain had not settled or improved by then, then seeking the medicinal help is considered vital. LBP can have many psychological concerns, especially as the lower back pain becomes chronic; your sleep cycle gets disturbed. You will tend to avoid certain activities or situations because of fear of pain, this, in turn, will affect your routine life activities, your hobbies, and your social and even personal life.

Some patients may also avoid physical activity on the whole. Moreover, the body will find it tough to cope up with the subroutine habits. Additionally, you will tend to put on more weight which is again a vicious cycle, leading to back pain. As you face a prolonged illness, this affects your physical and mental health thus, causing depression.

What types of surgery are available for back pain?

There are many types of surgeries to relieve back pain. Sometimes, depending upon your health, the doctor can choose more than one operations, for the best of your health. These surgeries, however, are done to relieve pressure on any disoriented nerve, stabilize vertebrae or to correct any deformity like scoliosis. Spinal fusion is a surgery where two or more vertebrae of your spine are joined using a bone section to stabilize your spine. A discectomy removes the herniated disc or a disc prolapsed material from the spine. Laminectomy is the removal of a bone section from one of your vertebrae which compresses a nerve in the spine. Lumbar spinal decompression is a surgery that is done to give the nerve roots some space.

What part of the body does the lumbar spine control?

The lumbar spine is positioned in the lower back right below the cervical and thoracic regions of the spinal cord. There are five vertebrae from L1 – L5 in it. These contain some soft tissues and nerves which control the transportation of synapses and information from the brain to the leg. The principal function of the lumbar spine is to withstand the whole body weight.

What can I do to prevent low back pain?

There are healthy and balanced lifestyle choices to have a more significant impact on how we are dealing with an injury. A survey from 2006 specifies that lower back pain is more linked with people who describe their health status and lifestyle as “poor to fair.” There are a few factors that are known to increase the risk for low back pain, such as smoking history, repetitive bending or lifting activities in day to day life, work, ergonomics of sitting, unhealthy lifestyle including the nutrition and food intake, exercise, etc.

Exercise is an essential factor in life to keep us fit and healthy. Exercise controls our body’s metabolism by releasing endorphins that leaves us to be “happy.” Leading a hale and hearty lifestyle is allied with fewer injuries and a faster recovery rate even if there is an injury.

What are the symptoms of low back pain?

Back pain changes from person to person, from being a sharp pain to a stabbing pain. It can be dull or Charley horse type of cramp or aching. The pain that you experience will depend on the underlying cause of your back pain. For some people, lying on back or using a recliner chair will make them feel better despite the cause of the pain. For some others, pain might increase while sitting, bending forward, bending backward, lifting the weight, walking, etc. For some others, back pain will follow a time course; it goes up or comes down.

Sometimes, the pain may radiate from the buttocks to thighs and hips, but not to the legs if a patient suffers from Sciatica. This is more common in the patients with a herniated disk. At times, patients may also feel numbness, tickling or weakness that radiates to the foot. It is also likely to have sciatica without back pain.

What are the tests involved in the diagnosis of lower back pain?

Diagnosis of lower back pain involves five to six steps. You will be first asked to tell your symptoms. After having a full discussion about the various signs you mention, your doctor will go through your medical history to check out any other illness or chronic problems you may have. Next, your doctor will examine your back, giving pressure with different hands on the areas to find out where you feel the pain more. He may also use some medical tongs to test the intensity of the pain you get when you are given pressure.

After examining for the pain in the back, the doctor moves to test the functions of nerves in your legs to find out whether the nerves are profoundly affected due to the back pain. Based on the medical opinion from all the above examinations, the doctor will suggest some imaging tests be done. First, he will go for X-rays. Though he can have only visual ideas about your bones, it will help him to find out what apparent cause produces back pain for you.

If he wants a further diagnosis, he will ask for an MRI, which will give a clear image of various internal tissues, like muscles, nerves, and discs. After this test, if your doctor suspects that you may have a bone problem, he may suggest you go for a CT scan. This scan will help your doctor to identify the actual issue of your bone that causes pain for you, and to rule out other causes, such as bone cancer or infection in bones.

As the next step, you may be asked to do the bone density test to test the level of calcium in your bone and to find out whether your bone has become brittle and fragile due to loss of some tissues, resulting in thinning of the bones. It is not that osteoporosis may be the reason for the back pain, but to find out if the pain is due to any fractures in the spine due to osteoporosis. From the results of all these tests, your doctor will identify the reason for your back pain and will start the medication to help you get out of the pain.

What is your lumbar spine?

The spot where the spinal column in our lower back bend is curling inward towards the abdomen is referred to as the lumbar spine, and it is the third major area of the spinal column. Starting at a distance of five to six inches below the shoulder blades, the lumbar spine gets connected with the thoracic spine at the top and is attached to the sacral spine at the bottom. From the Latin word, "Lumbus" meaning the lion, this part of the spinal column got the name "Lumbar.

As the lower back is very vulnerable as it supports the major part of the spinal column, this part has to be more powerful, flexible, and susceptible to pain due to lifting, winding, and bending.

Several unique characters differentiate the lumbar spine from other areas. As you go down the vertebra, we should know that the lower part should bear more weight than the upper column. To support the entire weight of the upper body, the lumbar spine has five vertebrae (L1 to L5), which are more prominent and are stacked one over other without overlapping one another. The lowest two spinal segments of the Lumbar spine L4 and L5 is involved in more activities, and due to the excess weight it bears to cater to the need of heavy work, they are the most affected areas due to pain aggravating disorders.

The pain caused may be due to overexertion, a herniated disc due to slip or fall, and also due to normal aging. The lumbar spine is connected with the sacrum by the lumbosacral joint. This joint help in the rotation of our back to a certain extent, resulting in the swinging of hip and the pelvis when we walk, run, dance, or bend down doing exercise, or yoga. The lower spine curves or bends inward a little towards the abdomen, which is termed as lordosis.

What are the non-surgical treatment options for lower back pain?

You can be relieved of your back pain without undergoing any surgery by using some medications. For this, first, you should have a complete checkup and consult a well-trained spine specialist for a perfect medical follow-up to get away from the pain. You should know the exact condition of your lower back before starting the medication.

A wide range of typical pain medications can be used to cure your lower back pain. However, there may be few side effects using this medication. Aspirin or acetaminophen can be taken to get relieved from pain, but it may cause side effects. You can also use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen to get some pain relief. They also can reduce the swelling in your back. Narcotic drugs like codeine or morphine can be of good help to get away from the lower back pain. Steroids can be taken orally or as an injection directly into the spine. However, before going in for any of the above medication, we should know the power, limitation in usage, and the side effects or risks we may face by taking the drug. Also, we must take into attention the overall health of the patient and the intensity of the back pain.

Apart from drugs, if we add physical therapy in daily routine, the combined effect of both will help in getting relieved of the pain to a greater extent and help you do your day to day activities. Giving a massage with a hot water bag and ice can be of excellent use. Some prefer to do both alternatively, and they feel that it results in better relief. These massages will improve the blood flow, thereby reducing the stiffness in bones and in turn, they will reduce the pain.

Doing various physical exercises like weight lifting, stretching, yoga, cardiovascular exercises, and less intensive aerobic exercises can also help. A daily walk is also advisable to get relief from the pain. Usage of lumbar pain support braces will be of excellent help to get relieved of the back pain.

What happens in a disc replacement surgery for lower back pain?

This surgical treatment will include the removal of the disk and the replacement of it with synthetic parts. This is just as similar to the other replacements that are done in the hip or knee.

The primary aim of disk replacement here is to enable your spinal segment to retain some flexibility and maintain more normal movement.

This surgery will be performed via the abdomen, normally on the lower two disks of your spine.

Even though this procedure is not considered as a new technology anymore, the results of disk replacement are controversial when compared to that of fusion method.

What can chiropractic adjustments do for back pain?

The main principle behind chiropractic practice will usually involve the treatment of lower back pain conditions using manual therapy:

Spinal manipulation & manual manipulation: This refers to a high-speed, short lever arm thrust, which will be applied to an abnormal vertebra with the aim of enhancing functionality, decreasing nerve irritability and regaining the individual’s range of motion in his/her back. As such, this is otherwise called "chiropractic adjustment".

There is strong evidence that chiropractic treatment is helpful in the treatment of lower back pain. And, several of the published studies recommend this manual manipulation to be added to the treatment plan early in the lower back pain care.

Mobilization: This refers to low-speed manipulation, motion, and stretching of the muscles, as well as joints, with the aim of increasing the range of motion in those regions.

What causes chronic back pain?

Chronic back pain can turn out to be end-result of overuse injuries or repeated motions that put stress on the major muscle groups. Also, it can be related to degenerative changes in an individual’s discs or vertebral joints that can change the natural musculoskeletal alignment and/or stress the nerve roots.

How do you get rid of lower back pain when sleeping?

Patients with severe back pain enter into a vicious cycle of pain and sleeplessness. The less sleep can induce more pain, and more pain can bother the sleep cycle. While this cycle continues, other risk factors like the mattress that you sleep on, and the position how you sleep on the mattress, must be considered as influencing factors of the pain levels. Check your bed if you feel pain while sleeping or getting up. It is also mandatory to evaluate how you are feeling after getting up. If you feel numbness, stiffness or any pain in the joints when you wake up, you need a new mattress for your usage.

While purchasing a new bed, find the best one that suits you best, allowing your spine to rest in its natural alignment if you had been standing straight. A medium firm mattress is used to reduce lower back pain. A back sleeper prefers a stronger mattress, while a side sleeper prefers a softer one. Keep pillows at your leg or to your knees. This may help enjoy comfortable and painless sleep. Your sleeping position matters. Sleeping on your back is generally accepted but sleeping on your stomach is not. However, sleeping on your sides is better than sleeping on your stomach.

When is surgery necessary for low back pain?

A spine surgery or a back surgery can relieve some of the root causes of back pain. But, rarely spine surgeries are essential. However, when continuous treatment for over three months does not relieve the back pain, or when back pain limits the day to day activities impairing the quality of life, surgery is necessary. At times, unattended pain can lead to progressive neurological disorders, developing numbness or weakness, loss of bladder or bowel functions, and trouble in walking or standing. These situations also demand the need for surgery. Finally, when medications and physical therapy are not effective, and the patient is in good health, doctors may prescribe the spine surgery.

Should I see a specialist for lower back pain?

After the results of your diagnosis, your general physician may refer you to a specialist, generally an orthopedic, rheumatologist, neurologist or any pain specialist. However, the general physicians will be able to cure your pain if it is due to general muscular spasm or a related cause. In addition to the doctors, many of the patients even visit a consultation physiotherapist or a chiropractor or an osteopath. These specialists will help in diagnosing some of the typical back problems, exercises and stretching, mobility, posture correction, etc. These osteopaths, chiropractor or the physiotherapist do not need any referrals from your GP

How do I know if my back pain is serious?

If the lower back pain has not gone away within 1-2 weeks, you must visit the doctor. It is highly improbable to have any severe disease or disorders, but you can be sure that your physician can help you with an acute diagnosis and give you suggestions for a treatment plan. Generally, your treatment plan can be for 6 to 15 weeks. Even being under treatment, if your back pain has not reduced a bit, you must talk to your doctor to see if there are any adjustments and alterations to be made in the treatment plan.

If you are experiencing back pain for a prolonged period, also known as chronic low back pain, with additional troubling symptoms that must be checked, this situation will demand a physician’s attention. Some of the tandem symptoms with back pain are high fever, loss of bladder and bowel control, uncontrollable stomach ache, weak legs, numbness in the lower part of the body, tenderness in the back, and the list goes on.

When should you go to the doctor for back pain?

Generally, the muscular strains and sprains are common causes for the lower back pain. This can be due to improper sleeping posture or poor body mechanics while lifting any weight, or sometimes it may be due to the absence of exercise. These types of minor back pains can be managed by using ice packs or hot packs. In many people, a posture corrector brace will be of help.

However, there are acute or chronic backaches that arise from any severe injury or infection or any other disease condition. If you face any such situations, it is advised to visit a doctor as soon as possible and start your treatment.

Ensure to get evaluated by a professional if your back pain comes with any signs, such as pain that had been there for months without getting better despite various home treatments, pain that radiates from your spine to the lower part of your body till the leg, any signs of weakness, numbing or tingling sensation felt in many parts of the lower body, pain due to an unexpected accident or injury, pain when the body is supposed to relax, issues faced during excretion process, sudden and sharp weight loss in the body or if you have a high temperature running during the whole backache episodes.

How should I sleep with lower back pain?

Sleeping posture is crucial if you are suffering from back pain. It is highly essential to maintain the natural curve of the spine at all times, especially while in bed. A person can achieve this by making sure that his/her head, shoulders, and hips are in alignment, in which the back is correctly supported. The most effective way to try this is typically by sleeping on your back. However, many of us are not comfortable sleeping on our back or notice it causes us to snore. So, several people sleep otherwise. Therefore, there are various choices for individuals who wish to sleep better and cut back their back pain.

If you sleep with your back, try comforting your knee with a pillow, and this might give you help in maintaining the natural curve of the spine. If you sleep on your stomach, keeping a pillow at your abdomen and pelvis can help in easing the back pain. If you are a person who always sleeps on sides, then you need to draw your legs slightly upwards towards your chest and keep a pillow in-between your knees, thereby comforting your spine.

Is back pain a sign of cancer?

It might definitely seem very unusual to link the back pain to that of cancer in the lungs. However, there is much evidence to prove the association. It is established that almost 25% of people who have lung cancer can complain about a history of having back pain. The back pain caused by lung cancer shares many commonalities with other disorders; however, it also shows some distinct differences.

Other cancers like related bone carcinoma, mouth cancers, testicular cancers, gastric cancers all have a common symptom, a back pain. Many destructive diseases may be the different causes of back pain. For example, malignancy and/or infection in the tumor, ankylosing spondylitis, and epidural abscess account for less than 1% of the low back ache cases. Spine cancer also causes very severe back pain and is often easy to differentiate from the idiopathic back pain or the slip disk/ degenerative disease. Metastatic cancer also can mimic the idiopathic low back pain. So, it is essential to find out the underlying causes of chronic back pain and treat it before it gets worse.

Is walking good for lower back pain?

There is scientific evidence published in the Spine Journal that walking can reduce back pain by up to 10 to 50 percent. Aerobic exercise had been proven to reduce the back pain. However, some people find it difficult to carry out some forms of exercise. Hence, if they encounter pain that is unbearable while doing some types of exercise, they are advised to stop doing them and gradually restart the practices. It is also highly recommended that people don’t avoid regular exercise. Hence, exercise walking is a way to benefit from a routine exercise, without worsening the pain in the lower back.

Exercise walking is a beneficial one. It can help strengthen the feet, hips, legs, etc. It can increase the stability of the spine, tone, and condition the muscles and aid in keeping the body at an upright position. Walking also nourishes the spinal structures, facilitating the circulation of fluids, pumping nutrients into soft tissues, and pushing out the toxins. Walking also improves the flexibility of the body. Regular stretching keeps the motor nerves intact and also upkeeps the body dynamics. The continuous stretching also helps in avoiding any irregular movements, reduces pain caused by osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. It can also strengthen the bone and manage the bone density loss. Walking also helps in maintaining the weight of the body.

Can kidneys cause lower back pain?

The kidneys are located underneath the rib cage towards your back. It is hard to identify from which area the pain is originated. Mostly the urinary tract infections cause a severe low backache. However, the symptoms that you have can help you distinguish the kidney pain from back pain.

The location of your pain, the type of your pain, the severity, and the radiating pain you experience can help you identify if there is a problem in your kidney or the pain is from your lower back.

Kidney pain generally is caused by a kidney infection or kidney stones. Unless the kidney stones are removed, pain caused by them cannot be cured. Kidney pain won't increase if there is a sudden movement change. On the other hand, back pain is generally conventional and is caused by the nerves, muscles, or bones of your back. And, your back pain can worsen with movements or if you sit/stand for a long period. It can get better if you change positions or go for a  walk.

What organs can cause lower back pain?

Lower Right Back Pain:

The right lower back pain can occur from various sources. The organs in the mid back, pelvis, and lower abdomen can cause a low backache. Any irritation or inflammation in any of these organs or even infections can start a low backache. Such conditions usually come with other symptoms as well, and hence it will be easy to narrow down to the exact source of back pain.

Some of the most reported sources of back pain include ulcerative colitis, problems in the kidney, urinary tract infections, gynecological diseases or disorders, pregnancy, etc.

Lower Left Back Pain:

The left-sided back pain can be caused by either the kidney or colon. Sometimes, the internal causes of low back pain include kidney stones, kidney infections, gynecological issues, pancreatitis, pregnancy, etc.

What can cause lower back pain?

Generally, back pain is a result of an injury or a chronic defect, spasms in muscle, strained muscles due to any sudden movements, careless body mechanics when lifting a heavy object from the ground. Sometimes, lower back pain may be due to various medical issues like spine cancer, a herniated disc, ruptured disc, arthritis, kidney infections, urinary tract infections, or any infections of the spine. Acute back pain can remain troublesome from days to weeks and any pain that lasts for more than three months is said to be chronic back pain.

Lower back pain was earlier considered to be age-related that individuals between the ages of 30 to 50 had been suffering from back pain. However, the present generation individuals complain of having a lower backache even at earlier periods. However, due to aging, some changes occur in the body. The fluid in the spine reduces as you age. Therefore, there will be less or no cushioning effect on the spine. The vertebral discs friction irritates. Muscle tone is also deteriorated that the spine is prone to be  injured a lot. It thus describes the importance of strengthening the muscles and following good body mechanics to prevent low back pain. Some common causes of a lower backache include slipping or falling, disc injury, disc dislocation, stenosis, abnormal spine curvatures, sciatica, slip disc, arthritis, long-term pain in the joints, spondylosis, and spondylitis.

What can I do to relieve my lower back pain?

A low backache can be due to an acute injury or even from a prolonged neglected minor injury, leading to arthritis. Despite the causes, there are some routine techniques you can follow, merely to keep your back pain at bay.

Use Hot and Cold Treatment: You can use both the heat and the cold to your advantage when you suffer from severe back pain. However, you must be careful in what order you are using these temperatures for your well being. If your injury is fresh and you have been experiencing low backache, use an ice pack first and then follow thermal bag treatments.

Your sleeping position matters: Make sure you are sleeping in the right and comfortable place for your spine.

Yoga: Annals of Internal medicine had published various reports and studies supporting the fact that yoga has a short-term effect to relieve back pain.

Stretch: Once every 20 minutes, take a break from your monotonous work. Stretch your body or go for a minute’s walk and that will help.

Watch your weight: Maintain your weight by following  healthy diets and regular exercises.

OTC Drugs: Some anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, Advil, Motrin or other trade names of Ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and so forth can help manage the pain. Other drugs like Tylenol can also assist in pain management and also can give you mild drowsiness to rest.

Back Brace and Posture Corrector: Start using a back brace and posture corrector. It would help you sit in the right position so that your spine can manage your body weight.