Skip to main content

Low back pain and neck pain affects nearly everyone at one time or another. Symptoms coming from your spine can limit your ability to sit, stand or walk, and your pain may prevent you from working or enjoying your normal recreational activities.

When back pain strikes, you need to see your doctor right away to get an accurate diagnosis of your condition and to get started on the proper treatment. Treatments for back or neck pain typically include:

  • Medication
  • Physical therapy exercises
  • Chiropractic care
  • Steroid injections
  • Surgery

Most people can successfully manage their back pain without the need for surgery, but sometimes the pain is severe and the spine damage requires surgery to correct. When this happens, learning all you can about the types of back surgery and the different approaches available can help you make the best decision regarding your care.

Causes of Back Pain

There are many different causes of back and neck pain. These may include:

  • Facet joint arthritis
  • Vertebral compression fracture
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Herniated or bulging discs

Surgical Approaches for Back Pain

There are different types of surgery for back pain. These surgical procedures may include:

  • Spinal fusion
  • Kyphoplasty
  • Foraminotomy
  • Laminectomy and discectomy
  • Laminotomy

Your surgeon will choose the best surgical procedure for your specific condition. Be sure to talk with your neurosurgeon about your surgery so you understand what to expect with your procedure. More important than the surgery itself is the type of approach your neurosurgeon takes when performing surgery.

There are two different types of spine surgical approaches: the traditional open approach, and minimally invasive spine surgery. Each approach has specific pros and cons, and therefore weighing minimally invasive spine surgery vs traditional surgery can make a difference in your surgical outcome for back or neck pain.

Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Minimally invasive spine surgery is a newer and innovative technique to spinal care. During minimally invasive spine surgery, your doctor will make a tiny incision in your low back.

The muscles around your spine will be spared by simply spreading apart the fibers with specialized instruments to visualize your spinal structures and decompress your spinal nerves. The instruments will be removed and sutures will be used to repair the tiny incisions.

Pros of minimally invasive spine surgery

There are many accepted benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery. They may include:

  • Rapid recovery time
  • Decreased risk of infection
  • Minimal blood loss during surgery
  • Back muscles are spared to their function
  • Less pain

Most patients who choose minimally invasive spine surgery vs traditional surgery enjoy the rapid return to normal activity with less pain. This means you can get back to your lifestyle quickly and safely after minimally invasive spine surgery.

Cons of minimally invasive spine surgery

There are a few downsides to having minimally invasive spine surgery. These may include:

  • More challenging for the surgeon because of difficulty visualizing the surgical field
  • More technical difficulty for your surgeon to perform multiple level procedures
  • A relative of research regarding more rare and complex spinal problems

Many of the cons of minimally invasive spine surgery are due to lack of surgeon experience, so finding a spine surgeon who specializes in the minimally invasive approach can help you have a positive outcome with surgery.

Traditional Spine Surgery

The traditional open approach to spine surgery is one that many old-school neurosurgeons practice. This approach requires that your doctor make a large incision in your back and dissect your spinal muscles away from your bones.

Your doctor visualizes the surgical area and uses instruments to cut away material that is compressing your spinal nerves. Then, the surgical instruments are removed and the incision is sutured.

Pros of standard open spine surgery

There are a few pros to having open spine surgery, including:

  • The techniques have been tested over many years
  • Your doctor actively visualizes your spinal structures
  • Your surgeon can perform surgery on multiple levels in your spine with a single large incision

Some conditions require that you have an open spine surgery. If you have multiple problem areas in your spine, your doctor may choose the open approach to make it easier to perform the surgery.

Cons of the traditional open approach to spine surgery

There are a few things that may make you decide to avoid open spine surgery, including:

  • A large open incision increases risk of infection
  • Increased risk of blood loss during surgery
  • Dissection of back muscles means increased healing time with decreased mobility
  • Increased pain
  • Slower return to work and normal functional mobility

When weighing your surgical options and considering minimally invasive spine surgery vs. traditional surgery for your back, you must work closely with your doctor so you can make the best decision for your condition.

Making a Decision

To finally decide on the type of approach for your spine surgery, you must be working with a trusted neurosurgeon who has your best interests in mind. Your doctor should be a caring and compassionate individual, and he or she should listen to your concerns about surgery and answer any questions you may have.

Working with a top-rated neurosurgeon is recommended when facing surgery. There are best practices to follow when searching for the right doctor for you, including:

  • Asking family members and friends about their spine surgery experience
  • Searching the internet for neurosurgeons who perform minimally invasive spine surgery
  • Speaking with your family doctor to get a referral to a trusted neurosurgeon

When facing spine surgery for your back or neck pain, you should know all of your options. Your surgeon should explain to you the type of surgery you are having and the benefits of having minimally invasive spine surgery vs traditional surgery.

When facing spinal surgery, you should take time to learn as much as you can about the procedure and approach. Finding a trusted, top-rated neurosurgeon can help your decision-making process be a smooth and easy one. That way you can focus on your rapid recovery from surgery and your return to your normal active lifestyle.

Neurosurgeon Consultation NJ