FOR LOWERBACK PAIN, SPINAL FUSION IS BEST
The vertebrae lining your backbone are cushioned by shock-absorbing discs. Over time, disc damage leads to micromovements that can trigger pain. On an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI, the narrowing of space between vertebrae is often interpreted as disc degeneration and the source of pain. It would seem logical, then, that fusing vertebrae and/ or removing bone would limit micromovements, make space for nerves, and ease the ache. This thinking led to a 70 percent spike in such surgeries from 2001 to 2011. About 400,000 are done annually.
A recent study determined that up to 40 percent of people who undergo back surgery could continue to have significant pain afterward. Rates of complication from such operations can be upwards of 20 percent. Even with today’s medical advances, finding the cause of lower-back pain is very difficult. About 85 percent is the “nonspecific” type and surgery is typically not the best option. In 2017, the American College of Physicians published new guidelines, recommending nonpharmacologic, non-surgical options, such as exercise and cognitive behavioural therapy, to treat acute and chronic lowerback pain.