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When is back surgery the right choice?

Posted February 19, 2021

The decision to consider back surgery should always come after trying all nonsurgical or "conservative" options. However, when the pain is persistent & clearly related to a mechanical problem in the spine, you might talk to your doctor about surgery.

There are a variety of procedures for spine-related back problems, but the 800-pound gorilla in the room during any discussion of back surgery is spinal fusion. In this procedure, the surgeon joins two adjacent vertebrae (the large bones of the spine) to form a single unit.

Fusing an unstable joint is supposed to prevent motion that can cause pain, but it's a major operation that often fails to offer a lasting solution. As a result, fusion has become the poster child for expensive, risky, & unnecessary back surgery. Despite that, the number of fusions has risen sharply over the years.

Patients should be wary of fusion & its false promises, says Dr. Steven Atlas, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "Based on the evidence, the indications for fusion are few & far between, but that doesn't stop surgeons from doing them or patients from getting them."

Spinal Decompression is a safe alternative to invasive spinal surgery. We have an enviable success rate reducing & even eliminating back pain altogether. We help patients who are suffering from chronic, debilitating, pain or have been told they need back surgery.

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