If you’ve sustained a back injury or have been living with a spine condition but your surgeon doesn’t feel surgery is warranted, you may be wondering what your options are. Finding relief from the symptoms you’re experiencing should be at the top of your list, as this can go so far as to affect your quality of life. What are the nonsurgical options available?
What is noninvasive back surgery?
Noninvasive back surgery is perhaps a bit of a misnomer. While there is no spine surgery that is completely noninvasive, there are minimally invasive techniques that can be used to decrease the typical trauma associated with traditional back surgery.
Noninvasive vs. invasive treatments
Noninvasive treatments are essentially any treatment that does not require creating an opening (surgical incision) in the body and manipulating the tissues and bones within. Invasive treatments, on the other hand, involve creating an incision or incisions and removing or repairing structures within the body.
Deciding which treatment option is used depends largely on the extent of the condition or injury and your ability to tolerate anesthesia. While surgery is not noninvasive, there are treatments for spinal conditions and injuries that don’t depend on surgical intervention.
Receiving a proper diagnosis
One of the most important aspects of deciding whether you need an invasive vs. noninvasive back surgery treatment is the extent of damage and whether it can repair itself over time, or if it will need surgical intervention.
Seeking an accurate diagnosis is of the utmost importance so that you can receive the right treatment for your back discomfort and symptoms. Incomplete or inaccurate diagnoses can delay treatment or lead you down the wrong treatment path.
Your diagnosis may start with your general practitioner. Oftentimes, insurance companies require a referral from a GP to a specialist. He or she will take a full health history, giving them a broad overview of your ongoing health up to this point. Be sure to mention any past injuries, surgeries or illnesses. You will receive a physical exam and potentially bloodwork. A neurological exam will also give your doctor a good idea of nerve function.
Imaging diagnostics may be warranted to look for any anomalies and allow a closer look at the composition of your spine’s bones and tissues. Other things that your doctor may look for are ruptured discs, tumors and bone abnormalities.
Once you’ve received a complete exam and diagnosis, you can start moving forward with noninvasive back surgery treatments to help relieve your symptoms.
Why noninvasive back surgery?
In reality, noninvasive treatments for spine injuries and conditions don’t involve surgery. Often, they are the first avenue tried to see if relief can be obtained without surgical intervention. Below you’ll find outlined some of these different treatments and the advantages to each.
Typically, your doctor may first have you try medications to relieve your symptoms. These can include analgesics, anti-inflammatories, and nerve medications.
The advantage of starting first with medications is that they may bring you relief, allowing you to begin to heal with reduced or even no pain and discomfort. They also can be adjusted and combined with different medications to try to address specific symptoms.
The downside of medications is that some of them are highly addictive. This is particularly true of narcotic pain medications. The other drawback is that many people require gradual dosage increases to get full relief. Sometimes it gets to the point that the medication is no longer working and the maximum safe dose is being administered, making it a non-viable option.
Some back pain can be managed with injections of corticosteroids. These injections work by reducing the inflammation in the areas they’re injected into. This treatment may be helpful if you’re experiencing back pain due to arthritis, swelling or an acute injury.
The main drawback of injections is that they have to be done fairly frequently and aren’t always effective at relieving pain. Depending on the nature of the injury or condition being treated, there may not even be an adequate level of inflammation present, making these injections somewhat ineffective.
Your doctor may also prescribe a series of physical therapy appointments to help you with your symptoms. Physical therapy targets specific muscles and helps increase strength and flexibility in problem areas. While it is not a cure-all, it can be incredibly helpful in certain conditions, such as mild herniated discs or scoliosis.
Physical therapy for degenerative spine conditions can be an ongoing process, making it less-than-convenient for those with a busy lifestyle. When used in conjunction with surgery, it is at its most effective.
The right treatment option for your condition
There are many factors that go into choosing a noninvasive back surgery treatment. It’s essential that you make this decision with your doctor or surgeon — he or she will be able to provide you with important insight into the options that would be best suited to your unique needs.