Spine Surgery

September 19, 2022

How Lumbar Fusion Relieves Lower Back Pain


Lumbar fusion surgery is one of the most effective ways to relieve lower back pain, especially in cases of disc degeneration.

Causes of Lower Back Pain

There are many different causes of lower back pain, but some of the most common include:

  • Muscle strains: The muscles that support your spine can become strained or injured.
  • Herniated discs: The discs between your vertebrae can become damaged and cause discomfort or pain in your lower back.
  • Degenerative disc disease: Over time, this can cause spinal stenosis, a condition where your discs cause compression of the spinal canal.

Surgery is not always needed for chronic lower back pain, but it is important to find the root cause of your pain. If you have had trouble with chronic back pain and nothing has brought relief, it may be time to consult a doctor who specializes in this area.

What is Lumbar Fusion?

Spinal fusion is a type of surgery used to relieve back pain. It involves fusing together two or more vertebrae in the spine.

The goal of lumbar fusion is to relieve pain and restore stability to the spine. In some cases, only one vertebra in the lower back is involved in a lumbar fusion, while other cases may involve multiple vertebrae. The procedure is designed to prevent the affected vertebrae from moving around too much and causing pain.

What Happens During Lumbar Fusion Surgery?

Fusion can be done using metal, plastic, bone, or other materials. The material is inserted between the vertebrae, and then the vertebrae are fused together with screws, rods, wires, plates, or other devices to stabilize them. In some cases, a laminectomy may also be performed simultaneously to remove pressure on nerve roots exiting through the affected area.

Lumbar fusion can sometimes be done through a small incision in the back using an arthroscope. An arthroscope allows your surgeon to insert surgical instruments and medical imaging equipment into your back without making a large incision. Your surgeon will decide if an arthroscopic procedure is right for you. If there is not enough room for the tools needed inside your back, one or more larger incisions may be needed.

Recovering from Lumbar Fusion Surgery

Patients typically spend 1 to 3 days in the hospital after undergoing lumbar fusion surgery. This is to ensure that your body has time to recover before being sent home.

After lumbar fusion surgery, you will need to limit what you do for a few weeks. You will need someone around to help you take care of yourself while you recover from your operation.

The recovery process varies by individual, but there are a few things you can do to aid your recovery after lumbar fusion surgery:

  • Avoid activities that strain your back
  • Follow lifting restrictions set by your surgeon
  • Get at least 8 hours of sleep each night

After fully healing from the procedure, many patients are free of lower back pain and enjoy a more active lifestyle. Others may continue to experience some lower back pain, but it’s usually manageable with medications and other treatments.

Who Needs Lumbar Fusion Surgery?

There are several things you can do to help with lower back pain until it’s time to think about surgery. These may include stretching, lumbar traction, physical therapy, or exercises such as yoga or pilates. Your doctor will be able to advise you on what’s right for your specific case. However, if non-surgical methods don’t work to relieve your lower back pain, it may be time to consider lumbar fusion surgery.

Most candidates for lumbar fusion have chronic lower back pain due to degenerative disc disease or have undergone multiple spine surgeries without improvement.

Just like other surgeries, your health is a large factor in determining whether you are an appropriate candidate for lumbar fusion. Advanced age, diabetes, and smoking habits—as well as the complexity of the surgery—can all impact your candidacy.

Is Lumbar Fusion Right for You?

When you’ve decided that you’ve had enough of your back pain, it’s time to explore treatment options. Request an appointment online or call (501) 748-8000 to schedule a consultation with one of Arkansas Surgical Hospital’s qualified spine surgeons. They can answer your questions about lower back pain, discuss your options, and determine if lumbar fusion is right for you.

Photo by Kindel Media

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