Lumbar (Low Back) Pain Prior Lumbar Fusion Surgery

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Is a Prior Lumbar Fusion Surgery to Blame for Your Low Back Pain?

Lumbar fusion surgery is performed to permanently connect two or more vertebrae in the lower spine, eliminating motion between them. The goal of this procedure is that if the painful lumbar vertebrae are stopped from moving, the low back pain will subside. Performing this surgery changes the way the spine can move. Post-surgery, additional stress may be placed on the vertebrae surrounding the fused portion, which can sometimes lead to chronic low back pain.

Understanding Prior Lumbar Fusion Surgery as a Cause of Lumbar Spine Pain

In order to better understand Lumbar Fusion Surgery, and its effects on low back pain, it’s important to be familiar with the structure and function of the spine. A healthy spine is composed of a chain of tiny bony like structures, called vertebrae, that link together to create somewhat of a safe house for the spinal cord. Each of the vertebrae in this chain is separated by a small intervertebral disc. These flexible discs serve as protective pillows between the bones, and absorb the daily shock created when we walk, run, or jump. The discs facilitate smooth fluid motion of the spine, as we move about in everyday life.

As we age and the spine undergoes constant repetitive stressors, problems may develop between the bones. Stability of the vertebrae may be compromised due to a number of spinal conditions. Broken vertebrae, a herniated disk, or severe arthritis of the spine are some of the major causes of decreased lumbar spinal stability and low back pain. When a spine specialist pinpoints the exact location and cause of the pain, Lumbar Fusion Surgery is sometimes used to correct the condition that his causing the pain – usually for people whose pain has not been well-managed by non-surgical treatment methods. The basic idea of this surgery is to fuse together the small damaged vertebrae so they may heal into a single, solid bone that will not be able to move. It is designed to mimic the normal healing process of broken bones. During the surgery, a bone graft or a material resembling real bone is placed in the space between two vertebrae, which will facilitate the growth of real bone over time.

Spinal fusion eliminates all motion between the vertebrae that are fused. Though the fusions typically involve only small segments of the spine, the procedure will reduce the spinal flexibility in that area. Because of this immobilization, it alters the way the spine can move. Additional stress is placed on the vertebrae surrounding the fused portion, and can increase the rate at which those areas of the spine degenerate. This added stress, paired with normal repetitive wear and tear in the vertebral joints, can cause further damage and may lead to chronic low back pain.

It is also important to be aware that lumbar fusion surgery may not resolve all chronic low back pain, and it is normal and common to still experience some pain afterwards. Though it is typically an effective treatment for fractures, deformities, or general instability in the spine, the added stress placed on the surrounding areas may call for additional lumbar fusion spinal surgery in the future.

If you feel that your low back pain may be due to a prior lumbar fusion surgery, it is crucial to discuss your treatment options with a spine health expert. He/she will be able to build a treatment regimen that works best for you. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and following your doctor’s instructions will greatly increase your chances for a successful outcome.

Tips for Preventing and Managing Low Back Pain at Home

  • Regular stretching and exercise can help prevent and ease low back pain.
  • When lifting heavy objects, use your legs for leverage, not your back.
  • When carrying something, be sure to distribute its weight evenly, not favoring one side.
  • Consult a spine specialist for severe low back pain that hasn’t resolved with conservative methods in a few weeks.

Health Tips

  • Always eat breakfast
  • Eat your fruit and veg
  • Take time to shop each week
  • Sit down at the table to eat
  • Get adequate rest daily.

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