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7 Common Back Ailments That Can Be Treated With Minimally Invasive Surgery

Back pain is a common medical problem, one that will affect 8 out of 10 people at some point during their lives. Pain can occur in the cervical spine (neck), thoracic spine (upper and mid-back), or lumbar spine (lower back), and it can present as a throbbing sensation, a dull ache, or a sudden, sharp pain.

At Apex Spine and Neurosurgery in Alpharetta and Bethlehem, Georgia, members of our expert team of neurosurgeons specialize in back pain and minimally invasive surgical procedures. When conservative treatments fail, many common back ailments can be treated using minimally invasive procedures.

Here are seven of the most common back conditions that we may treat with minimally invasive surgery:

1. Herniated discs

The condition: The moveable bones (vertebrae) in your spine are cushioned by small, gel-filled discs with tough outer coverings. The discs act as shock absorbers. When something places too much pressure on them, the discs herniate, forcing the soft inner material through the outer layer. The herniated portion can push against spinal nerves, triggering pain, and other symptoms.

The symptoms: These include persistent pain near the disc that’s herniated, which can also radiate into your shoulders, arms, legs, and feet, depending on the disc’s location. Continued pressure may lead to numbness, tingling, and weakness.

The surgery: In a discectomy, the surgeon removes part or all of the disc that’s compressing the nerves. A microdiscectomy requires just small incisions to remove only the damaged part of the disc. The surgeon may also perform a spinal fusion at the same time, implanting a bone graft that fuses vertebrae together to provide spinal support and stability.

2. Scoliosis and kyphosis

The condition: Scoliosis is a disorder that causes the spinal bones to twist out of alignment, forming an abnormal C- or S-shaped curve. Kyphosis, a degenerative condition often caused by osteoporosis (thinning bones), causes the thoracic spine to curve forward, creating a hump.

The symptoms: Other than curvature, mild scoliosis may present no symptoms. However, severe cases make it harder for the lungs and heart to work properly and can cause back and neck pain as well as muscle spasms. Kyphosis can lead to back pain and stiffness.

The surgery: Both conditions can be addressed by straightening the spine to varying degrees through bone grafts and spinal fusion.

3. Spinal stenosis

The condition: A narrowing of the space within the spinal canal puts pressure on the spinal nerves. It’s most commonly caused by wear and tear related to osteoarthritis.

The symptoms: Some people with spinal stenosis don’t have symptoms. Others experience pain, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness that worsens over time.

The surgery: Spinal stenosis is generally treated with some form of spinal decompression to relieve pressure on the affected nerves. These include a laminectomy, discectomy, or osteophyte (bone spur) removal.

4. Vertebral compression fractures

The condition: Compression fractures occur when vertebrae collapse because they can’t support the normal pressure placed on your spine. Most are caused by bone fragility due to osteoporosis and occur in the thoracic spine (upper and middle back).

The symptoms: These include moderate-to-severe pain that’s worse when you move as well as limited spine movement and muscle weakness in your arms or legs.

The surgery: Compression fractures are typically treated with one of two procedures. With vertebroplasty, the surgeon inserts a needle into the collapsed vertebra, injecting bone cement that stabilizes your spine when it hardens. With kyphoplasty, the doctor uses a balloon to restore the vertebra’s normal height and shape, then injects the cement.

5. Degenerative disc disease

The condition: This is an age-related condition when one or more of the vertebral discs deteriorates, often from fluid loss or wear and tear, leading to pain. It can occur in the cervical or lumbar spine.

The symptoms: Symptoms range from none to debilitating pain that radiates into the limbs. May also cause spinal instability leading to muscle spasms.

The surgery: The surgeon may recommend spinal fusion, disc replacement, anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) (another approach to spinal fusion), or disc decompression surgery.

6. Sciatica (lumbar radiculopathy)

The condition: Sciatica is pain due to compression of the nerve at the L4-L5 or L5-S1 level — called the sciatic nerve — that runs from the lower back, down each side of the buttocks and into the legs and feet.

The symptoms: You may have pain, numbness, tingling, and/or weakness anywhere along the nerve’s path.

The surgery: Any one of the following may be recommended, depending on the nature of the compression:

7. Spondylolisthesis

The condition: One of the lower vertebrae slips forward onto the bone directly under it, often due to overstretching or injury.

The symptoms: There may be persistent lower back pain and tenderness, thigh pain, back and leg stiffness, and tight hamstring and buttock muscles.

The surgery: Generally a spinal fusion is recommended for spondylolisthesis.

Are you having persistent back pain that’s not responding to conservative treatments? Give Apex Spine and Neurosurgery a contact one of our offices, or book your consultation online.

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