When is Surgery for Back Pain Necessary?

The Appropriate Treatment for Back Pain

Back pain is a common ailment in the United States. The National Institute of Health reports that nearly 25 percent of all adults will experience as least one day of back pain within a 3-month period. Typical attributing factors can include a patient’s age, heredity or occupation. 

There are cases in which back surgery can help patients who suffer from constant back pain, but it should always be considered a last resort. There are other alternatives available that can help reduce acute back discomfort, such as the minimally invasive procedures offered by MIIGS. 

The Symptoms

The types of symptoms vary among individuals and are directly influenced by the source of the pain and the area of the back that is affected. They can develop over a long period of time or can appear unexpectedly. Patients should consider seeking medical attention if the pain they experience:

  • Consists of sharp, throbbing aches.
  • Is accompanied by pain that affects the sides or front of the legs.
  • Limits the range of movement and flexibility of the back.
  • Occurs for the first time after the age of 50.
  • Is associated with bladder or bowel complications.
  • Occurs after a fall or injury to the back.
  • Is severe and doesn’t improve with rest.
  • Causes numbness, tingling or weakness in one or both legs.

What MIIGS Can Do To Help

The board-certified physicians at MIIGS practice a range of interventional radiology therapies that target back discomfort. They include facet joint injections, epidural steroid injections and nerve root injections. These minimally invasive procedures use fluoroscopy, also known as a live x-ray, to ensure the accurate application of either a steroid or anesthetic solution into or near the source of the pain. These treatment options are safer than back surgery and have a much shorter recovery time. A steroid such as cortisone may be used to reduce inflammation in the area.

During a typical procedure, the physician inserts a needle into the body, using fluoroscopy for guidance. After a contrast dye is injected to confirm the needle’s location, the solution is injected. The patient may feel varying amounts of pressure due to the volume of solution used. After the treatment is completed, the patient is observed for up to thirty minutes before being allowed to go home. The pain relief gained from these injections is meant to allow patients to participate in physical therapy treatments that can help resolve their back issues. 

A Closer Look at Our Treatments

Facet Joint Injections. Facet joint injections, also sometimes referred to as facet blocks, target the joints in the sections of the spine. They are performed in order to identify the reason and location of the pain and to provide relief. 

Epidural Steroid Injections. These injections target the epidural area of the spine. While they are mainly used to treat forms of pain in the legs and lower back, they are also effective for pain in the neck and mid-spine regions. Medical studies report that over 50 percent of patients who have undergone the procedure have experienced a significant reduction in pain.

Nerve Root Injections. During nerve root injections, the physician injects the area around the nerve with an anesthetic solution. The effect of this treatment is almost immediate, with the patient experiencing almost total pain relief and temporary numbness. 

The physician will also use the nerve root injection as a diagnostic tool to determine the cause of the pain. After an injection, the patient will be asked whether it was effective. Once the nerve has been isolated, it may then be directly treated with an epidural injection that contains both an anesthetic and a steroid.

When to Consider Surgery 

There are situations in which minimally invasive procedures are not enough and more aggressive treatments should be explored. Back surgery can be considered a viable option when other avenues of treatment have failed and the pain is severe, persistent and has incapacitated the patient. Other reasons to consider back surgery include:

  • The condition of the back can be improved by surgery based on definitive information gathered by detailed imaging tests. 
  • An experienced and skilled surgeon has been selected.
  • There is a realistic and positive expectation about the surgery.

Many back ailments are treatable using the minimally invasive procedures provided by MIIGS. If you or someone you know suffers from back pain, please call us today at 318.528.7560 to schedule a consultation. Learn more about our treatment options by visiting our website or submitting an online contact form.