Conservative care: When is it time for lower back surgery?

Conservative CareIt started as a light tingle with some numbness. Now, movements like getting off the couch have become the most painful tasks in your everyday life. Conservative treatments like stretching and pain medication seem to help, but not for very long. It never used to be like this — and you’re ready to explore new options to find relief.

Often caused by conditions like degenerative discs and pinched nerves, the lower region of the spine, known as the lumbar spine, is the most common area affected in patients with chronic back pain.

“The lumbar spine sustains the greatest axial load, or stress, as we walk upright against gravity,” said Dr. Jeffrey Langmaid, D.C., a Consult Physician at Laser Spine Institute. “That’s where we see the most back injuries.”

Nonsurgical treatment, also known as conservative care, is the first step in treating the symptoms associated with chronic neck or back pain. This can include chiropractic care, physical therapy, pain management injections, acupuncture and massage. A yoga routine or hot and cold compresses can also be used to relieve lower back pain. But when is it time to consider lower back surgery if conservative care is unsuccessful?

“Conservative care is always the first line of defense against pain and disability of lower back pain; I recommend patients follow through with an initial care plan, which could range from two to six weeks depending on the diagnosis and presentation of the patient,” said Dr. Langmaid. According to Dr. Langmaid, conservative care can be considered unsuccessful if the patient didn’t achieve their pain relief goals during treatment or if his or her condition is no longer improving.

It may also be time to seek surgical treatment when there is a significant increase in pain, decline in muscle tone and ability to walk or perform basic motor functions.

“If one day you’re able to walk to the mailbox, then the next day you can’t get out of a chair, that’s a sharp decline in motor function and requires immediate attention,” said Dr. Langmaid. “But most people will see a slow progression as symptoms worsen.”

At Laser Spine Institute, our minimally invasive outpatient procedures can provide relief from chronic neck or back pain if conservative care is unsuccessful. Using a less than 1-inch incision, our highly skilled surgeons use muscle-sparing techniques as an alternative to traditional open back surgery — but that’s not all we do.

As a Planetree approved partner, we create a personalized, healing atmosphere for each patient at our state-of-the-art facilities. If you’re looking for the next step in your journey to relief from chronic neck or back pain, call a Spine Care Consultant at Laser Spine Institute today.


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