Suffering from chronic back or neck pain can be draining, both physically and emotionally. On the flip side of living with persistent pain, there is the idea of back surgery. Understandably, most people are cautious about undergoing surgery to correct a spinal problem, even with a full understanding of where and what that problem is.
We treat numerous patients in the NYC area at the Hospital for Special Surgery. Here, our primary objective is to help people regain a comfortable quality of living; one that does not involve chronic pain. To achieve this, we offer several spinal procedures, including spinal decompression and fusion. To help you understand your options, we will address some of the key points, and misconceptions, about spinal fusion here.
Why Spinal Fusions are Done
The goal of performing spinal fusion is to stop nerve irritation caused by friction between two vertebrae. Spinal fusion surgery is sometimes needed for more severe injuries such as a fracture somewhere along the spine. However, the procedure isn’t only for major trauma. Additional reasons a spinal fusion may be advisable include:
- Spinal stenosis
- Degenerative disc disease
Mobility After Spinal Fusion
Some people believe that having a spinal fusion will decrease their range of motion by “freezing” their spine. Fusion only joins two of the 33 vertebrae that make up the spinal column. Therefore, fusion does not affect mobility in a significant way. The only area in which mobility is affected is between the exact two vertebrae that are fused together. This leaves a considerable amount of movement to enjoy. Plus, a substantial decrease in pain may actually seem to improve mobility.
Spinal Fusion Recovery
Patients’ expectations are all over the board on this point of interest. Many believe that they would have to endure a lengthy recovery period after having two vertebrae fused. We suppose this depends on your opinion of what “lengthy” means. Initially, patients will spend some time resting and recuperating from their surgical procedure. Within weeks, though, physical therapy begins. The exercises performed with a physical therapist and at home can be an enormous boost to recovery. As the spine and surrounding muscles heal and once again work together, more strenuous activities can be resumed. This may occur within about six months. If pain has become increasingly problematic for years, six months is no more than a blip for most people.