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Spinal surgery has made significant advances in both its safety and efficiency in correcting many back problems, from traumatic spinal cord injury to degenerative diseases like spinal stenosis, spondylosis, and slipped disc. Many of these advances in spinal surgery have come in recent years due to minimally invasive microsurgical tools and techniques. Nonetheless, back surgery is a severe operation, and surgical candidates need to be aware of all facets of the procedure they’re considering – not only the benefits of the surgery but also the potential risks. One of the risks of spinal surgery is that of developing blood clots.
Any injury to the body increases the risk of a blood clot, as the injury itself stimulates the clotting process. Surgery constitutes an injury or trauma, and the body responds accordingly. Spinal surgery – which the body interprets as an injury to the spinal cord – can lead to the formation of blood clots within the veins. If such a thrombus becomes dislodged, it can block a blood vessel as it narrows, causing a stroke or heart attack, possibly resulting in paralysis or death. Proper postoperative care, medications, and the patient’s active role in the recovery process can minimize the risks of blood clots.
That’s a postoperative disease associated with thrombus forming in the deep veins of the lower extremities. Often, it is induced by muscle atony or, simply put, lack of movement.
DVT symptoms include:
To understand why you get blood clots after surgery, it’s worth analyzing the typology of thrombus. So, the hemostasis of the human body is maintained by forming blood clots (e.g., during wound healing). But sometimes, such a phenomenon has a negative impact on the body’s functioning. The thrombus is formed as a result of activation of the blood coagulation system in response to a vascular injury. The occurrence of thrombosis is also associated with a violation of the venous wall. That’s life-threatening because pulmonary embolisms from deep vein thrombosis (DVT) may happen later. A blood clot breaks off and goes through the bloodstream to the lungs, settling in the pulmonary arteries.
It may also cause some ischemic strokes or blood clots near the spine while blocking the artery that supplies the spinal cord. Its signs usually appear suddenly and can feel like a tight bandage wrapped around a torso. That’s precisely the point where the blood supply is disrupted. The thickening or narrowing of the arteries that carry blood to the spinal cord often triggers cerebrospinal strokes.
Treating conditions such as slipped discs, spinal stenosis, and spondylosis is much less likely to cause complications than a hip or knee replacement. The cumulative incidence of deep vein thrombosis or DVT, also known as blood clot after surgery, steadily increases during the first two weeks and depends on the professional hospital care and factors of the patient’s preoperative condition, for example:
One of the misconceptions is regarding the existence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) as a risk factor. The reality is that postoperative complications don’t occur; for the most part, they may be comorbid.
The most important concern after an operation is to prevent any negative consequences. In this case, we’re talking about two serious diseases: deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.
Since the thrombus has a high density, thinning drugs, namely anticoagulants, will prevent blood clotting (e.g., warfarin/ coumadin, heparin).
Note! Use the article for informational purposes only. Follow the therapeutic instructions of your doctor.
Clot busters are injected intravenously and break down clots. Filters settled in large veins can sometimes be used during therapy. Their function is to prevent pulmonary embolism. Compression stockings may also prevent puffiness (one of the signs we’ve noted above).
Prevention of the illness in the postoperative period consists of maintaining normal body weight and good physical shape. Thus, you need to play sports, walk and avoid prolonged inactivity constantly. So, for example, it’s essential to take short walks. Discuss with your doctor how vulnerable you’re at risk of blood clotting, tell your medical history. If you suffer from comorbid diseases, such as diabetes or heart failure, ensure to report it. During the preoperative period, your goal should be to achieve a stable state of health.
Blood clots in the back can be triggered by an invasive operation, trauma, disease. In 40% of cases, people who have suffered a cerebrospinal stroke can walk independently, 30% move with a cane, 20% are confined to a wheelchair. The scary data only makes you want to stay out of that 20% and 30%, right? Therefore, the preparatory period is significant: systematic; targeted treatment will help eliminate possible negative consequences. Anticoagulants, drugs that lower blood pressure, occupational therapy to preserve muscle function – these are all standard manipulations for preventing and treating cerebrospinal stroke. By the way, don’t forget to stick to a healthy diet – foods rich in fiber will help avoid the risks of intestinal inflammation. So take care of yourself now, not when you reap the rewards of a poor lifestyle.
Anyone considering back surgery should also be aware that some procedures for treating a spinal problem may present lower risks or provide better outcomes than others. For example, the TOPS™ (Total Posterior Solution) procedure, which may be performed after spinal decompression surgery to stabilize the spine, provides better clinical outcomes than spinal fusion surgery, which was the traditional choice for spine stabilization before the introduction of the TOPS system.
The TOPS provides for minimally invasive spine surgery and thereby significantly reduces the risks associated with DVT. Previously, when knowledge in spine treatment wasn’t as developed as today, the fusion procedure was the only available and most innovative option. The vertebrae were “glued” into a relatively rigid structure, which significantly limited movement. Even though flexion and extension weren’t possible, and the risks were very impressive, the fusion continues to be performed today. However, TOPS™ surgery has become a more acceptable alternative to treating degenerative spondylolisthesis of lumbar spinal stenosis for many younger physicians. Its advantage is movement in all axial directions, as well as stability.
The structure is implanted using a traditional posterior surgical approach, but the TOPS system exerts less force on the screws than other configurations.
After the operation, the blood clotting mechanism in the body is very active because it’s aimed at stopping bleeding. Damage to the blood vessels around the surgical site is often the cause of DVT. Thrombus can form in the veins of the lower extremities but travel to the pulmonary veins with the blood flow, generating pulmonary embolisms, which are life-threatening. This process can last for weeks, and some symptoms can be identical to other diseases. The same shortness of breath or coughing are often warning symptoms, and if the convalescent neglects visits to the hospital or rehabilitation center, then often valuable time can be wasted.
The TOPS solution has the added benefit of preserving the spine’s full range of motion and also has significantly lower risks of thrombosis, unlike spinal fusion, which permanently fuses adjacent vertebrae. If you’re a candidate for back surgery, make sure you understand not only the upsides and downsides but also all the alternative surgical solutions that can help you minimize the already low risks associated with advanced spinal procedures.
Near the top of the list of questions from almost every spinal surgery, the patients indicate how long they will have to wait for the following surgery before resuming their everyday activities. When it includes athletics – golf and tennis, bowling and the like, pastimes that put tremendous strain on the back – the answer becomes more complex. The factors influencing the time before patients can get back in the game include their physical condition and health. Just because one engages in strenuous physical activity doesn’t mean they are in good physical condition or health. Recovery times are faster for surgery patients in good physical shape because their bodies heal more quickly. Of course, the operation itself will play a significant role in deciding when you’ll be back on the tennis courts, golf course, taking a job, or engaging in a simple walk. The postoperative physical therapy program also plays a significant role. But the type of back surgery is the primary factor affecting the time required to get back into sports activities.
How to recover from surgery if you are an athlete or cannot live without daily activity – read further in this article.
While many people consider back surgery as the end of a promising sports career, Olympic, amateur, or professional athletes have returned to their competition after many common types of operations. General physical condition, professionalism during surgery, and spine rehabilitation affect how quickly you return to the game. Here are some tips for athletes planning to return to sport after a minimally invasive intervention.
In most cases, surgeons consult about postoperative care. They depend not only on the patient’s health and medical history but also on the desire to return to sports. We previously discussed lower back surgery recovery: diet, exercise, physical therapy, massages, proper wound care, and medication support are vital aspects of recovery. Of course, you shouldn’t neglect motivation and grit to achieve success. And if your competition is right around the corner, and you’re still in the hospital ward, this is not a reason to be upset. Your orthopedic surgeon will take this into account when planning your postoperative period. Of course, everyone wants to leave and start an everyday life immediately. Still, following the recommendations, you’ll be able to return to sports faster than causing implicit harm to your body during self-rehabilitation. Returning too early cancels not only the healing but the operation’s effectiveness.
So, a doctor’s advice may include:
You’d also talk to your coach about your career prospects or options (if you’re an amateur athlete) when getting approval from your PCP to return to athletics. It’s essential to be careful and aware of the limitations.
The postoperative stage depends on the patient, understanding the symptoms of complications, and a quick reaction if something goes wrong. E.g., accurately characterizing the level of pain and discomfort, reporting aches, numbness of the limbs, dizziness, suppuration in the wound area doesn’t mean a step back in the rehabilitation progress, but on the contrary, the ability to accelerate after a slight slowdown. Try to protect the spine, especially in the early stages of recovery. Respect your body and its healing times.
Infections at the site of the surgical incision most often occur 2–4 weeks after the intervention. Most often, the following symptoms appear:
It’s essential to treat any of these and some other signs as they arise. If ignored, unavoidable consequences may occur.
For patients with deep infection, a course of intravenous antibiotics is often given for about two months. Chronic contamination leads to the removal of the implant.
Keep the wound clean: it must be washed with water and soap at least once a day. Remember to keep the wound dry for healing and crusting. It’s undesirable to utilize ointments, lotions, body creams on the operated areas. After two weeks, when the staples or stitches are removed, you may return to bathing or swimming.
For opioid pain relievers, discontinuation usually occurs within the first few weeks, at most a month. There are other pain management options, such as using acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. But, as in the first case, they have their pros and cons and depend on the medical history. By combining medicines with physical therapy, you can achieve impressive results.
It’s no secret that athletes’ dedication to the postoperative rehabilitation program greatly influences their subsequent success. Depending on overall progress in physical therapy, you may get consent to exercise, but return to activity must be gradual and gentle to avoid unnecessary risks.
Patients, who have undergone minimally invasive TOPS™ procedures, can usually regain a full and painless range of motion. They have the greatest likelihood of returning to sport at pre-injury levels. Conversely, most exercises after spinal fusion aren’t available to athletes, and the possibility of injury increases – they’re less likely to return to athletics. Any collisions and falls will negatively affect health.
In any case, physiotherapy is a panacea for healing – movement combined with other aspects of rehabilitation can give you a chance for a better life. Let’s consider the leading practices that are useful for patients in the postoperative period.
It’s worth moving daily to improve blood circulation and speed up the healing of muscles and spine tissues. E.g., an essential therapy is walking, which can support the normal functioning of the heart and lungs. An upright position of the body is the best activity for the spine after surgery – this way, you can protect the discs from unnecessary stress. So, start with simple walks, and then work with your coach to develop your exercise program.
That’s one of the simplest and effective therapies utilized in various types of operations. For instance, laminectomy recovery exercises are invaluable as they help protect discs and strengthen your back muscles.
This exercise is valuable because the discs hold the lower back during flexion and extension of the lumbar spine. So, to perform the training, you need to do the following steps:
To strengthen the muscles of the lower back, it’s worth doing the SLR exercise. To do this, while lying on your stomach, slowly and alternately lift each leg up. In doing so, try to tighten your abdominal muscles. Do an exercise with a delay of two seconds at the highest point of the limb position. As before, do ten reps per set. Such a physiotherapy approach is appropriate for laminectomy, fusion, microdiscectomy, decompression, and of course, implantation.
In some cases, the surgical treatment chosen for a given spinal condition will affect not only the time needed to get back on the playing field but the degree to which you will ever be able to recover your old form. Take the stabilization procedure following spinal decompression surgery, for example. Spinal decompression is performed to relieve pressure on nerves within or emanating from the spine caused by conditions including spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, and other degenerative changes or as a result of spinal cord trauma. Spinal fusion back surgery has been the primary stabilization procedure. But the fused vertebrae lose their independent motion following stabilization. Often, patients are restricted from physical activity for up to 6 months while waiting for the biological fusion process to complete. Today, the TOPS™ (Total Posterior Solution) System provides an alternative to spinal fusion. The TOPS™ System, a surgical implant, stabilizes the spine while preserving each vertebra’s independent motion – and the good news is that there are no restrictions on your physical activity after surgery. That’s going to ensure better performance whenever it’s time to get back in the game.
As you improve your range of motion in your spine, it’s time to start doing more challenging activities that will help you get back to working condition. To do this, discuss a possible change in activity with a PCP and trainer and adjust the training schedule. After implantation, you don’t have to worry that you can’t perform some exercises. The TOPS™ System is an alternative to spinal fusion and allows you to perform any range of movements required for warm-up, training, and cool-down.
Medical terminology doesn’t go out of its way to be complicated or hard to understand. It’s simply that the language has to be very precise, and that much of it comes from Latin. Hence, it can be difficult to decipher some med-speak without a little help. Take the term “lumbar laminectomy,” a fairly common surgical procedure that can help alleviate the pain, mobility limitations, and other symptoms that often accompany medical conditions of the lower spine. Indeed, the word “lumbar” refers to the lower spine. The lumber portion of the spine comprises the lowest five vertebrae of the spinal column, which bear the designation L1 through L5 – “L” standing for lumbar.
Every vertebra in the spinal column is covered in a bony sheath called the lamina, which helps protect
the nerves that run through the spinal column. But sometimes, due to injury, disease, degenerative changes, or other causes, the lamina can put pressure on nerves emanating from the spinal column, a condition referred to as a pinched nerve. Problems within the vertebrae, such as an unnatural narrowing of the spinal canal, a condition called spinal stenosis, can also result in pinched nerves.
When surgery is performed to relieve pressure on a pinched spinal nerve, a procedure called spinal decompression, it requires cutting away the portion of the lamina that is impinging on a nerve or to gain access to the interior of the vertebrae to address a condition such as spinal stenosis. In medicine, the suffix “ectomy” refers to excision or removal. Thus, cutting away a portion of the lamina is a procedure called a laminectomy. So a lumbar laminectomy is an operation in which a portion of the lamina on one of the first five vertebrae is trimmed away. A lumbar laminectomy can achieve dramatic results in alleviating the symptoms of pinched nerves. Traditionally, spinal fusion back surgery was performed in concert with a laminectomy to stabilize the spine at the point of the operation. Now lumbar laminectomy patients have an alternative that provides better outcomes than spinal fusion surgery while preserving the full range of the spine’s motion: The TOPS (Total Posterior Spine) System procedure. If you’re a candidate for a lumbar laminectomy or other spinal decompression procedure, make sure you understand all your treatment options.
What is a Laminectomy
Lumbar Laminectomy is a spinal surgery involving the removal of the vertebral bone to alleviate symptoms of spinal stenosis. Laminectomy surgery is relatively common for major surgery. Its main function is to reduce spinal pressure on the cord and nerve roots when they are being unnaturally restricted. This surgery is for those suffering from various ailments, including those sustained from past injuries, herniated disks, spinal stenosis, and tumors. While there are alternative methods to try before getting to this point, such as physical therapy, medication, and even injections, some may find this is the only path to relief.
While determining what is a laminectomy, we should deconstruct the name. Lamina is the scientific name for the vertebral bone. This surgery, Lumbar Laminectomy, is the process of removing the vertebral bone to lift pressure surrounding the spinal canal. Pressure is created by things like impacted bone injury, bone overgrowth, or growing tumors. A decompressive laminectomy increases available space and therefore alleviates any pain sufferers may be experiencing. While the surgery itself is great, so are the results.
What is Spinal Stenosis
If you are considering spinal laminectomy you may likely be suffering from spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis is one of the most common spinal ailments. Since stenosis means narrowing or restricting, this condition refers to the unnatural narrowing of the spinal canal. This condition often develops for unknown reasons but can be caused by an overgrowth of either bone or tissue. Some cases may be hereditary, while others arise from an unhealthy lifestyle.
Options Before Surgery
Everyone can benefit from a healthy lifestyle, including those suffering from spinal stenosis or other spine stemming pain. Simple solutions like a healthy diet, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy BMI can all reduce pain and symptoms. While these are idealistic options, they also are not the solution for everyone. It is possible that someone’s back pain is so great they are limited in the forms of exercise they can partake in.
Physical therapy is another noninvasive option that patients can try before getting a lumbar laminectomy surgery. Because most patients suffer from pain in their back and legs, it can be helpful to have a physical therapist to assist in teaching the body how to move through these debilitating pains in a way that can offer some relief. Physical therapy assigned exercises to have the ability to release pressure similar to surgery, though the effects are often not as long-lasting.
Medication is also available to those suffering from inescapable pain. Some medications offered can help with both pain and inflammation so that those suffering from spinal stenosis are able to manage their symptoms throughout their day.
While these solutions can help manage and relieve pain, ultimately, they do not offer more stability to a destabilized spine, nor do they permanently create space in the spine where the pressure afflicts. In cases of long-term relief, most find that surgery is necessary to moving forward into a pain-free life.
In deciding if surgery is right for you, it helps to know exactly what is to be expected during the procedure. A doctor uses general anesthesia to put the patient under for the duration of the surgery. In the process of the surgery, the surgeon makes a small cut into the back, right over the affected area. They then enter through this cut with small tools to lift the muscle away from the spinal column. The lamina is then removed to create space in the narrowed spinal canal. In the case of a herniated disk, the doctor can then remove the parts of the disk that have herniated.
Traditionally after this, the vertebrae would be fused to create stability in the spine to supplement the removed lamina. This is done with either bone graphs, screws, or metal rods. While efficient in rendering the spine functional post-operation, it does create limited mobility that can impede some physical activities.
How to Prepare for Laminectomy Surgery
Laminectomy Surgery is major surgery. Many are intimidated by spinal surgery because it is such a crucial part of our body and people often have a fear of how their life changes after. Here is how to prepare for optimal recovery.
Once you wake from the surgery your care team checks to ensure everything has gone smoothly and your body has responded well to the spinal laminectomy surgery. While a short hospital stay is typical, some people are released the same day. This means that no matter the case, the comforts of home are not too far away.
Upon returning home, rest! Though it is healing in the long run, your body has just sustained a major injury and needs time and care to recover. Give yourself grace and let people help with things like meals and keeping the house running. Letting yourself rest at this time is crucial for long-term recovery.
It is recommended that you do not work for the first few weeks following a decompressive laminectomy. Those with less physically demanding jobs return to work sooner than those with more labor-intensive jobs. If you have a spinal fusion laminectomy recovery takes longer.
How to Make Spinal Surgery Less Traumatic
The results of lumbar laminectomy, while impressive, may take a while to work. There are records of patients taking up to a full year to complete their laminectomy recovery. Those who do go through with the surgery are also sometimes recommended physical therapy as a part of their recovery process. This leads to a long and involved path back to normalcy.
If you are looking for a way to make your laminectomy surgery and recovery less traumatic, consider a spinal implant. TOPS system uses an implant after decompression is completed to prevent the necessity for spinal fusion. Where traditionally vertebrae are fused after laminectomy surgery, TOPS implants hold the space where the vertebrae were removed, combining the relief of the surgery with all the mobility and freedom you had before.
Patients who have had a TOPS System implant report faster and easier laminectomy recoveries than those who received traditional spinal fusions. Because the spine is the foundation of the human body it is important you take the path offering the greatest recovery and mobility post-surgery. Does this look like a spine that has been fused together, or upgraded with an implant?
Life After Laminectomy
While it is a big decision to make, ultimately it comes down to regaining your life. Those who have spinal laminectomy are choosing a life free of debilitating pain and getting back the body they once knew. Lumbar laminectomy patients are often happier and healthier, having chosen the care right for them.
Back pain is not just a symptom of aging. Anyone, of any age, in any physical condition, can and will likely experience back pain at some point in their life. So if you are experiencing back pain, don’t think that you’re alone. There are plenty of seventeen year-old athletes who experience back pain and thus seek the same medical care that you do for your own back issues.
While getting older can be a cause of back pain, as your body’s discs, joints, muscles and ligaments carry you through your life for a longer amount of time, and while many people experience their first back pain episodes while in their 30s and 40s, there are other top causes of back pain:
In short, anyone can get back pain. And perhaps you see yourself in several of the above causes, so take steps now to help prevent back pain or help lessen your back pain symptoms.
Hearing “It’s just a back strain” may not be very comforting when you’re experiencing severe back pain. While back strain may sound like a minimal back injury, it can cause you a great deal of discomfort, perhaps sleepless nights, back spasms that can cause severe lower back pain and in some cases, immobility. Many people with back strains go to the emergency room for relief.
Most lower back pain episodes are caused by damage to the muscles and/or ligaments in the lower part of the back. When you have back strain, you may have one or both of the following:
Strain and sprain are often used interchangeably, since the treatment and prognosis for both of these are the same. So one is not worse than the other, although the amount of pain you’re experiencing may make you think that what you have is indeed the worse of the two. Especially since you cannot see inside your back, your imagination may conclude that you have something much worse than a back strain or sprain. Patients experiencing pain can often jump to dramatic conclusions and envision difficult treatments ahead.
It can calm your worries to understand what a back strain is. When the muscles or ligaments in the lower back are strained or torn, the area around the muscles will likely become inflamed. That back inflammation leads to back spasms that can cause your severe back pain and immobility.
“How did this happen to me?” is likely the next question on your mind. Back strains are often the result of a movement or movements that put undue stress on the lower back. Motions like lifting a heavy object, lifting multiple heavy objects (such as with landscaping using large rocks or bricks,) lifting and twisting, a sudden and single twisting motion (like your last golf tee-off of the day,) or a fall are just some of the movements that can cause back strain.
Symptoms of back strain may range from a mild ache to sudden, debilitating pain often localized in the lower back. The pain of a back strain is likely to be located in the low back, and not radiate down your leg (as with sciatica.) Your back may be sore to the touch, pain comes on suddenly and strongly, you may have those muscle spasms in your lower back, and you might find standing or walking to be more uncomfortable than resting.
With a doctor’s care and pain-reducing medications, you may find your back strain’s worst pain subsiding quickly, but with back strain, you may experience a lower level of pain, or flare-ups of pain, for a few weeks to a few months, depending on how severe your back strain is. And how well you rest after being diagnosed. Self-care is essential with back strain, so that those stretched or torn muscles of ligaments can heal well. Most back strains and sprains are much better after 3 to 4 weeks, since the large muscles in your back have a good blood supply, which delivers healing nutrients and proteins to your injury site for healing to take place. You might not be able to see that happening, but as you heal from your back strain, that’s what’s happening beneath the surface.
Failed back surgery syndrome (also called FBSS, or failed back syndrome) is a generalized term used to describe ongoing pain after back surgery. After going through a spinal surgical procedure, of course both you and your surgeon desire your complete painlessness. But, even with the best spinal surgeon and the best indications for your spinal surgery success, there is always a small chance that back pain may continue after surgery and recovery (studies report continued back pain after 5% of all spinal surgeries ).
What causes Failed Back Surgery Syndrome? There are many reasons why a back surgery might not result in a completely pain-free existence, partially owing to the fact that spine surgery is only able to accomplish stabilizing a painful joint and decompressing a pinched nerve. If your back condition involves more than these two pain-causing situations, your spine surgeon will need to continue your care and explore additional solutions to your back pain condition.
Back surgery is reported to be 95% successful at changing anatomy that causes pain and correcting the physical results of a back injury. But it’s also important to realize that back surgeryisn’t a cure-all for every type of back pain-causing condition. Since the spine is a very complex part of your anatomy, with many vertebrae, nerves, and cushioning between your discs, it can be a complex process to get to the root of what’s truly causing you pain.
Your back surgeon will thoroughly assess your back pain condition, and use top technology to diagnose your back pain causes, but it’s important for you to have realistic expectations of what back surgery can and cannot accomplish for you. If you experience Failed Back Surgery Syndrome, your skilled physician will then conduct additional tests and map out a plan of action to remedy as much of your back pain as possible. All valuable things take time, so don’t set yourself up for possible disappointment by expecting a quick fix to any back pain. It may take an extra procedure or extra treatment after your back surgery to get you feeling much better.
If you do have great success after your back surgery, then you’re in that fortunate 95% of back pain patients whose symptoms lessen and whose lifestyle will very soon be active and more comfortable again.
Sleep provides important healing and rejuvenation to your back. When you’re suffering from back pain, it can be difficult to get a solid and healthy good night’s sleep. Lying down can be painful, and sleep simply doesn’t come. One of the many unpleasant symptoms of inadequate rest is being even more sensitive to pain. So it’s essential to take the smart steps necessary to improve your ability to sleep.
It may seem to be an impossible goal, but there are ways to improve your sleep quality while dealing with back pain:
Back painslows down millions of Americans each year, with symptoms ranging from nuisance soreness to back pain so severe and debilitating that a visit to the emergency room becomes the first step on a path leading to a spinal surgeon’s care. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, back pain is the second most common reason that adults see a doctor.
Back pain can occur anywhere on the back, from the neck (cervical area) to the middle of your back (thoracic area) to the lower back (lumbar area) with the lower back often being the most common location of severe and lifestyle-limiting pain, since the lower back bears most of your weight. That weight can compress the cartilage cushion between your vertebrae. And, over time, you might experience a degeneration of that cushioning cartilage, causing your discs to compress or slide out of place.
Walking, bending, lifting, twisting, even sitting and standing can then become excruciating. Back pain flares up and then goes away on its own after a few days for some people. But for others, sharp pains and limited motion becomes a bigger, more longer-lasting problem requiring medical care.
* Disc degeneration. Discs in the spine can deteriorate with age, and the deterioration of discs can lead to inflammation and irritation in the spine, which can cause great pain.
* Sciatica. While many people associate the term ‘sciatica’ with pain in the buttocks area, sciatica can be a painful condition in the back. Sciatica is caused when the sciatic nerve (a bundle of lumbar nerves) become irritated by a herniated disc. This condition is known as spinal stenosis. The sciatic nerve also can be irritated by an abnormality in a vertebra that puts pressure on it. Sciatic pain may be felt in the lower back or buttocks, and may also be felt in the calf and the foot. Sciatica pain can be mild with tingling, or it can become severe, growing worse at night. You might experience worse sciatica pain when you have long stretches of standing or sitting.
* Lumbar spinal stenosis. When spinal degeneration occurs the canal through which spinal nerves travel can narrow. As part of the aging process, discs can dry out and shrink. When these two conditions occur, you might experience painful pressure on a spinal nerve. This can happen with a minor injury, as a symptom of osteoarthritis of the spine, or simply as a symptom of aging. The resulting back pain can be severe.
* Osteoarthritis. Arthritis anywhere in the body can be painful, but when osteoarthritis occurs in the back, you may experience pain and muscle spasms. Osteoarthritis can affect the cartilage in the discs, the vertebrae or both anywhere along the spine, pinching the nerves and causing pain.
*Herniated disc. Also called a ‘slipped disc,’ this condition occurs when a damaged or bulging disc pinches or irritates a nerve root.
When severe back pain occurs, your physician will assess you for any or all of these conditions, and you will likely start on a back pain reduction plan that aims to reduce your discomfort, return your mobility, and manage your back pain flare-ups. Perhaps you and your doctor will decide that spinal surgery is the best solution to remedy the internal causes of your severe back pain, returning you to better quality of life.
The TOPS™ System is one such solution. 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.
Spinal fusion back surgery is often performed in conjunction with spinal decompression treatment. The decompression procedure relieves pressure on pinched nerves emanating from the spine, reducing pain and restricted mobility in limbs caused by the compressed nerve. But the spinal decompression surgery involves removing portions of vertebrae, making the spine weaker at these points. Thus, spinal fusion surgery is performed to strengthen the spine after decompression, and involves fusing two adjacent vertebrae with the use of an implant.
Preparing for spinal fusion surgery – whether performed on the lumbar, thoracic or cervical spine – is similar to preparations for any spinal operation, but there are a few specifics to be aware of. First, be prepared to be thoroughly examined before the surgery is performed, so your physicians can plan all aspects of your operation. Radiograph assessments of spinal instability, EMG to test nerve function, and an MRI, CAT, or other scan is often performed to identify nerve compression.
Your overall physical condition will also be assessed to ensure you are in sufficient health to undergo the rigors of the surgery. You will need to discuss any and all pre-existing medical conditions with your physicians, and further evaluation of such conditions may be necessary before proceeding with spine fusion surgery. In fact, one of the most important ways to prepare for spinal fusion is to get into the best physical condition possible. Being in good physical condition translates into fewer complications during surgery and faster recoveries after, among other benefits.
Spinal surgery of any kind should be considered a last resort, undertaken only if more conservative treatments have proven ineffective. But many patients undergoing spinal decompression now have an alternative procedure to spinal fusion, shown in clinical tests around the world to have better outcomes than spinal fusion. The TOPSTM (Total Posterior Solution) System stabilizes the spine without eliminating the independent motion of the individual vertebrae, as spinal fusion does. So one of the best ways to prepare for spinal fusion is to find out if an alternative solution like TOPS makes more sense than spinal fusion surgery for you or a loved one.
Lumbar spinal stenosis, a common medical problem, denotes an unnatural narrowing of the spinal canal, the center of the spinal column housing the spinal nerves that relay sensorial information to the brain and control the movements of our muscles. The term stenosis comes from Latin, and means a narrowing. When a portion of the spinal canal narrows unnaturally, it can put pressure on the spinal nerves, and these pinched nerves in turn can cause pain and limit mobility.
The good news is that a variety of treatment options are available that have been proven effective in helping individuals recover from or ameliorate the symptoms of spinal stenosis. Conservative, non-invasive therapies include simple lifestyle changes, medications, physical therapy, and injections of anti-inflammatory agents. For patients with spinal stenosis, there’s no way of knowing which of these approaches will be most successful, so physicians may simply prescribe one of these treatments as a first step, and monitor the results to see how the patient responds. If the first method selected doesn’t achieve the results of helping the patient recover from spinal stenosis, the next option may be tried, and so on.
For patients with moderate to severe spinal stenosis who do not respond to conservative treatments, surgery may be recommended. In this form of spinal decompression surgery, the surgeon trims away excess bone in the narrowed center of the affected vertebra, relieving pressure on the compressed nerve or nerves. Historically, a spinal fusion back surgery operation has been performed in conjunction with surgery to relieve spinal stenosis, in order to stabilize the region of the spine where the operation was performed. Today there’s an important, and better alternative to spinal fusion. The TOPS (Total Posterior Spine) System procedure provides better clinical outcomes than spinal fusion surgery. The TOPS solution has the added benefit of preserving the spine’s full range of motion, unlike spinal fusion, which permanently fuses adjacent vertebrae. TOPS also offers a much quicker recovery from surgical treatment for spinal stenosis than spinal fusion. If you’re a candidate for spinal stenosis surgery, make sure you understand all the advanced surgical solutions available today, and what impact each will have on your recovery from this condition.