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Spinal Surgery for a Slipped Disc

Spinal Surgery Scar

A slipped disc is a common term for a herniated disc, which occurs when the central core of a spinal disc ruptures. Fluid from within the disc then leaks into the spinal canal, where it can interfere with the functioning of nerves. A slipped disc in the spine is the last stage in a degenerative disc disease process that begins with a bulging disc and progresses to a protruding disc, before it finally ruptures. The “slipped disc” has not actually shifted position. Symptoms of slipped disc vary depending on the location of the slipped disc in the spine, and the extent of the rupturing. A slipped disc may be entirely unnoticeable if it doesn’t result in pressure on a nerve. A slipped disc in the neck (a slipped cervical disc), may cause pain or numbness in the shoulders, arms or chest. A slipped disc in the lower back (a slipped lumbar disc) may cause sciatica, creating pain anywhere from the buttocks to the feet.

The main causes of slipped disc are spinal degeneration from the natural aging process, or from injury such as improper lifting of heavy objects or poor body mechanics that put unnatural stress on the spinal column. Smoking and excess body weight also increases the risk of developing a slipped disc. Sudden trauma such as an automobile accident rarely causes slipped disc. Treatments for slipped disc include slipped disc exercises and physical therapy, medication to relieve pain and pressure on spinal nerves, and in some cases surgery for slipped discSpinal fusion back surgery is often performed in conjunction with surgery for a slipped disc. The fusion stabilizes the spine, but eliminates the natural independent motion of the now-fused vertebrae. Today many patients are choosing the TOPS™ (Total Posterior Spine) System as an alternative to spinal fusion surgery. The TOPS solution provides better clinical outcomes and preserves the independent motion of the vertebrae. This is just one of the advances bringing new and better therapies to back patients worldwide.

What is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

spinal stenosis exercises

Spinal stenosis – one of the most common spinal conditions – is an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal. (“Stenosis” refers to a narrowing, or constriction.) As the spinal canal progressively narrows over time, it puts pressure on the nerves branching out from the spine, causing pain, tingling, and numbness in the extremities. The condition can occur in the lower, or lumbar region of the spine – lumbar spinal stenosis, which is the most common form – or in the neck, or cervical region of the spine – cervical spinal stenosis.

The majority of cases of spinal stenosis develop for unknown reasons, but the causes of spinal stenosis can be traced to several components of spinal anatomy, including the intervertebral discs, the facet joints that connect the vertebrae to each other, and the spinal cord. The narrowing of the spinal canal may result from abnormal bone growth and/or tissue growth, or due to a hereditary disorder. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle including exercise, good nutrition and maintaining proper weight can help prevent spinal stenosis.

Options for treatment of spinal stenosis include spinal stenosis exercises, physical therapy that can relieve pressure on the spinal cord, and medication to reduce pain and inflammation. In extreme cases, surgery for spinal stenosis may be recommended. The surgery removes potions of the vertebrae that are impinging on the roots of nerves emanating from the spine. Following this spinal decompression procedure, spinal fusion back surgery has traditionally been performed to stabilize the spine. Unfortunately, this stabilization procedure eliminates the independent motion of the fused vertebrae, and can contribute to the deterioration of adjacent vertebrae. Today, the TOPS™ (Total Posterior Spine) System provides an alternative to spinal fusion that maintains the spine’s full range of motion, and that has been proven in clinical studies conducted worldwide to provide superior outcomes than spinal fusion following spinal decompression surgery. So patients seeking surgical relief for an abnormal narrowing of the spine now have access to a wider range of treatment options than ever.

What is Spinal Decompression?

Spinal Decompression

It may sound like something only a deep sea diver needs to be concerned about, but spinal decompression is an important topic for many people suffering from debilitating back pain. Spinal decompression refers to the process of relieving pressure on one or more pinched, or impinged nerves in the spinal column. The pressure on such nerves can cause pain, restrict mobility, and result in a host of other physical problems that can manifest in almost any part of the body. A host of spinal conditions, including spinal stenosis, disc degeneration, bulging, herniated or slipped discs, and facet syndrome can put pressure on nerves emanating from the spinal column.

Spinal decompression can be performed both surgically and non surgically. Non-surgical spinal decompression utilizes mechanical, computer controlled traction devices to reduce the pressure placed on nerves in specific portions of the spine. Inversion therapy, in which patients hang upside down, is another from of non-surgical spinal decompression.

For patients who do not respond to non-invasive methods, spinal decompression surgery can achieve dramatic improvements. In this surgical procedure, portions of the bone or tissue of the spine that impinge of a nerve are cut away, relieving the pressure. Historically, a spinal fusion procedure was performed in conjunction with spinal decompression surgery, in order to stabilize the spine at the point where the decompression procedure was performed. But spinal fusion, in which two vertebrae are fused to enhance spinal stability, eliminates the independent motion of the fused vertebrae, and may accelerate degeneration of adjacent vertebrae. Today, the TOPS™ (Total Posterior Spine) System provides an alternative to spinal fusion for patients undergoing spinal decompression back surgery. Unlike spinal fusion, TOPS preserves the full range of the spine’s natural motion, and has been shown to provide better outcomes than fusion in clinical studies performed around the world.

If you’re a patient whose pinched spinal nerve is not responding to non-invasive decompression methods, make sure you discuss all your surgical options with your physicians.

What is Lumbar Spinal Decompression?

Spinal Stenosis

Imagine if the branches of a tree were just as big at the top as they are at the bottom, and that sometimes, heavy loads were placed on the ends of the very highest branches. Think of the stress that would put on the lower portion of the tree trunk. Well, that’s analogous to the situation we humans experience with our spinal columns. Our spinal column is like the trunk of a tree, but we’re just as big at the top of our trunks as at the bottom. The stress this puts on our lower backs – also called the lumbar region of the spine – is exacerbated by the cumulative affect of a lifetime of lifting and twisting in combination with degenerative changes of the spine that occur as a result of aging. So it’s not surprising that the majority of back problems that bring patients to spinal specialists are centered in the lower, or lumbar region of the spine.

These stresses, along with our genetic makeup, disease or injury, can result in a host of spinal disorders such as bulging or herniated discs, slipped disc and spinal stenosis. These disorders, in turn, can result in unnatural pressure being put on nerves that emanate from the spinal column, potentially causing pain, restricted mobility, and other symptoms of pinched nerves. We talked about the problem of pinched spinal nerve and spinal decompression in general in a previous blog. As we noted, spinal decompression is a means of easing pressure on impinged spinal nerves, and can be performed either non-surgically or surgically. Lumbar spinal decompression simply refers to decompression procedures performed on the lower portion of the spine.

The surgical solution for a lumbar pinched nerve involves removing tissue from vertebrae in the lumbar region that impinge, or put pressure on a nerve. This is called lumbar spinal decompression surgery. Historically, spinal fusion back surgery has been performed in conjunction with lumbar decompression surgery to stabilize the spine. Today, the TOPS™ (Total Posterior Spine) System provides an alternative to spinal fusion that preserves the full range of the spine’s natural motion, and has been shown to provide better outcomes than fusion in clinical studies performed around the world. This provides an important more treatment option for individuals with moderate to severe symptoms of pinched nerves who do not respond to non-surgical lumbar decompression procedures.

Back Treatment Options

Spinal fusion

In our previous blog we discussed the tremendous stresses borne by the lumbar, or lower portion of the spine comprising the five lowest vertebrae. In fact, lumbar back pain is a significant health issue, affecting about 70 to 85 percent of Americans at some point in their lives, according the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Among the most common causes of lumbar spinal problems is the degeneration of bones and tissue in the spine that occur as a normal part of aging. But one doesn’t have to be older to have lumbar spinal problems. Back pain is the most frequent cause of activity limitation in people under the age of 45, according to the NIH. Trauma or injury, poor posture and biomechanics, genetics, obesity and poor muscle tone can all result in lumbar spinal problems that cause pain, limit mobility, and have other serious health consequences. These conditions include spinal stenosis, bulging disc, herniated disc, slipped disc, radiculopathy and spondylolisthesis.

A variety of treatment options are available for individuals affected by conditions causing lumbar back pain. Individuals with moderate to severe cases of these conditions who do not respond to conservative treatment options such as medication, physical therapy and lifestyle changes, may opt for a surgical solution. Frequently this involves cutting away portions of a lumbar vertebra that is impinging, or putting pressure on a nerve emanating from the spinal column. Such spinal decompression surgery can have a dramatic impact on relieving pain and restoring mobility. However, removing bony elements also weakens and destabilizes the spine, so historically a procedure known as lumbar fusion, or lumbar spinal fusion has been performed in conjunction with spinal decompression back surgery of the lower spine. In this procedure the vertebra from which tissue was removed is fused to an adjacent vertebra. This stabilizes and strengthens the spine, but lumbar fusion eliminates the natural flexion and independent motion of the fused vertebrae. Today lumbar decompression surgery patients have an alternative to lumbar fusion: the TOPS™ (Total Posterior Spine) System. TOPS preserves the full range of the spine’s natural motion, and has been shown to provide better outcomes than fusion in clinical studies performed around the world. If you are considering surgery for a lumbar spinal problem, ask your physician about all your surgical options.