Low back pain is one of the most common ailments seen by family doctors. Back problems typically respond to nonsurgical treatments — such as anti-inflammatory medications, heat, gentle massage and physical therapy. Most back pain resolves on its own within two months, however if your back pain persists or you have numbness or tingling in your legs or feet you should see your doctor immediately.
Back surgery might be an option if conservative treatments haven't worked and your pain is persistent and disabling. Back surgery often relieves associated pain or numbness that goes down one or both arms or legs.
These symptoms often are caused by compressed nerves in your spine. Nerves may become compressed for a variety of reasons, including:
- Disk problems. Bulging or ruptured (herniated) disks — the rubbery cushions separating the bones of your spine — can sometimes press too tightly against a spinal nerve and affect its function.
- Overgrowth of bone. Osteoarthritis can result in bone spurs on your spine. This excess bone can narrow the amount of space available for nerves to pass through openings in your spine.
Depending on your diagnosis will depend on what type of surgery you will need. Different types of back surgery include:
- Discectomy. This involves removal of the herniated portion of a disk to relieve irritation and inflammation of a nerve. Discectomy typically involves full or partial removal of the back portion of a vertebra (lamina) to access the ruptured disk.
- Laminectomy. This procedure involves the removal of the bone overlying the spinal canal. It enlarges the spinal canal and is performed to relieve nerve pressure caused by spinal stenosis.
- Fusion. Spinal fusion permanently connects two or more bones in your spine. It can relieve pain by adding stability to a spinal fracture. It is occasionally used to eliminate painful motion between vertebrae that can result from a degenerated or injured disk.