When is Spinal Fusion Surgery the Best Solution?

No one likes being in pain, but it’s also important to not rush into surgery if more conservative treatments can help your condition. At Wellington Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine, our experienced team specializes in treating spinal disorders and brings the most advanced physical therapy, rehabilitation, and orthopedic surgical care to men and women living in Cincinnati. With convenient locations in Anderson, Blue Ash, Bridgetown, Eastgate, Oxford, Sardinia, and West Chester, Ohio, we can work with you one-on-one to help determine if spinal fusion surgery is the best solution for you.

Understanding spinal fusion surgery

Spinal fusion is an orthopedic surgical technique designed to resolve problems with your vertebrae.

You have 33 vertebrae that make up your spine. These small bones protect your spinal cord, nerve roots, and provide structural support for your chest, shoulders, and head. Your vertebrae also give you flexibility and mobility, so your spine can bend and move in several directions. When your vertebrae become damaged or diseased, they can cause chronic and debilitating pain.

During a spinal fusion surgery, we fuse two or more of your vertebrae together to help them heal into one piece of bone. This treatment prevents unwanted motion and helps restore stability to your spine. It also eliminates movements between your vertebrae that can impact your nerves, ligaments, and muscles in the area.

When to consider spinal fusion surgery

Spinal fusion is a powerful tool when it comes to correcting back pain, but it shouldn’t be your first line of defense.

Most pain in the neck, arms, lower back, and legs will improve with noninvasive treatments, such as rest, ice, heat, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medications. For more severe pain, we can also try interventional pain treatments, such as facet blocks, epidural steroid injections, or rhizotomies.

When you have long-lasting pain that hasn’t responded to conservative therapies, however, it might be time to consider surgery. Some of the back issues we can address with spinal fusion include:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Broken vertebra
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Scoliosis
  • Herniated disc
  • Infections or tumors

We only recommend spinal fusion when we can precisely identify the location of your pain. We aim to pinpoint the area of your pain by using digital imaging, such as MRIs, CT scans, and X-rays.

What to expect during spinal fusion surgery

There are several approaches to spinal fusion surgery depending on the affected area of your spine. We often use a minimally invasive approach that enables us to perform your procedure by using small incisions, small instruments, and guided by a tiny camera.

All spinal fusions involve a bone graft to help your vertebrae fuse together. In most procedures, we place a small piece of bone in the space between your vertebrae where fusion should occur. Once in place, we insert screws, rods, and plates into your spine to help hold the bone graft in place and support the healing process. Immobilizing your spine in this way will increase its stability and allow you to move sooner after your surgery.

It’s common to have some pain after your spinal fusion, but we will work closely with you to keep you comfortable throughout the recovery process. It can take several months for your bones to fuse, and your rehabilitation will involve learning proper techniques to keep your spine correctly aligned. As your body heals, your symptoms will improve. Physical therapy will begin 6-12 weeks into your recovery.

If you’re wondering if it’s time for spinal fusion surgery, call us at Wellington Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine or schedule an appointment online today.

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