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Is It Worth It To Have Back Surgery?

Back pain is a common problem for many. Herniated discs, spondylitis and compressed nerves, all contribute to back pain.1 People suffer for week after week and the pain is most likely to radiate from the back and then down to the legs and feet. The last solution in order to get rid of the pain is undoubtedly the minimally invasive surgeries. But it is important to understand if it is worth it to have a back surgery.

Back surgeries are usually considered as the last resort when the non-surgical techniques did not bring about any suitable result. By the time a patient signs up for back surgery, the doctors must have tried the necessary treatments in order to ease the pain and weakness in the body. It should be highlighted that there is no guarantee that back surgery will provide relief. It is advisable to learn as much as possible about back surgery much ahead of time. The more a person knows about back surgery, the better the choice he or she makes.

Is It Worth It To Have Back Surgery?

Is It Worth It To Have Back Surgery?

The answer to this question is often based on the condition in which the patient is and after evaluating the benefits and complications that the back surgery might have.2 So, if you are wondering, if it is worth it to have back surgery, you need to evaluate your condition and discuss with the treating doctor.

When the pain and discomfort in the back is severe, incapacitating the patient to do anything and the conventional treatment methods are not sufficient in providing a relief, back surgery stays as the only option for treating the patient and relieving the patient off the pain.

In order to determine whether it is worth it to have back surgery, it is necessary to be aware of the benefits and weight them against the risks.3

The benefits of back surgery in this regard are.

  • The patient can move around with ease.
  • The person becomes more physically fit.
  • There is a sudden improvement in the mood.
  • The pain medicines are stopped. The pain killers are not a good option as it has tremendous side effects.
  • People can get back to normal life.
  • The person is more productive at work.

Risks of Back Surgery

Like the various benefits, there are several risks also that are associated with back surgery.4 Let us take a quick look at the cons.

  • Some of the patients can react to anesthesia or various other drugs that are prescribed post-surgery
  • Surgery can cause loss of blood
  • Infections are very common and can pose a threat to the patient
  • There are probable chances of blood clots in the patient’s legs or lungs
  • The probability of heart attack and stroke is quite high

In some odd cases, there can be a complete damage in the nerve which might lead to paralysis, weakness, sexual dysfunction, pain and even go to the extent of lowering the bladder control and bowel system.

Like any other surgery, even back surgery has its own pros and cons. Based on the health condition of the patient and if the benefits outweighs the risks, it is surely worth it to have back surgery. But if the risks are high, back surgery may not be considered appropriate. As regards the possible risks, the surgeon and the medical team will assess the case and plan a treatment approach, depending on the severity of the condition and the type of back surgery.

What Can Happen If Back Surgery Goes Wrong?

As per various studies, there are still chances that even after the back surgery the condition of the patient doesn’t improve much or things may go wrong. Sometimes patients are still in much pain even after the back surgery. In a study, it was observed that more than 5% people shared life threatening complications after they underwent complex back surgeries. The outcome of the back surgery often depends on the complexity associated with the back surgery.5

When is Back Surgery the Correct Choice?

Now, coming back to the question, is it worth it to have back surgery? The decision of considering back surgery should always come after all the non-surgical and conservative options are carried out. In case, the pain is persistent and is totally related to the mechanical problems in the spine, then it is time for the patient to talk about surgery to the doctor. In context to the spine related problems, there are a huge number of procedures.

Spinal fusion as a procedure allows the surgeon to join the two adjacent vertebrae for the formation of a single unit. When it comes to the fusing of the unstable joints, it helps in the prevention of a motion which can cause pain. It is a major surgery which quite often fails to provide a lasting solution to the patients. As a result of such a situation, fusion is now considered by many to be extremely expensive, perilous and a superfluous back surgery. In spite of the various cons of spinal fusion, the number of people opting for it is increasing over the years. Despite the cons of the back surgery, sometimes that becomes the only option left to take a chance and see if the condition of the patient improves or not. Hence, it is best that patients follow medical advice discuss about back surgery in detail and take an informed decision.

Ways to Avoid Back Surgery

Surgery is the last option in most cases and before surgery a lot of non-surgical treatments are carried out. The failure of these treatments results in opting for back surgery.

Here are some ways to avoid back surgery.

Application of Ice and Heat. In the acute stage of back pain, ice can help in numbing the pain, reduce inflammation and also ease swelling of the various tissues that are injured. Heat may also provide comfort. For some patients heat works better than ice as it helps in the flow of the blood and also reduces stiffness.

Stay Active. During the acute or the initial phase, short intervals of bed rest may turn out to be helpful. It should be kept in mind that extended or prolonged bed rest can be harmful. Movement should be as much as it could be managed without worsening the pain. Walking can be safely done without putting much pressure on the back.

Exercise to Avoid Back Surgery. Stretching and strengthening exercises should be introduced gently as the pain subsides. These helps in strengthening the muscles and thus protect the surrounding spinal structures and nerves from getting hurt, irritated and damaged.

Apart from anti-inflammatories and other medications, physical therapy is one of the most efficient treatment methods for back problems. However, if symptoms do not improve or if the condition is severe, one should discuss with the doctor, if it worth it to have back surgery.


Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 22, 2019

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