Every year, over 1.2 million people will go under the knife in an attempt to cure their neck or back pain. This makes sense considering every four out of five people will suffer back or neck pain at some point in their life. Studies have shown that only 50% to 70% of spinal surgeries are successful. So what do you do if you’ve been told you need spinal surgery or you had the surgery and it didn’t help? 

   In this two part series, we’ll first take a look at the statistics surrounding spinal surgery. In next week’s post we’ll discuss alternatives to spinal surgery and practices that can help post-surgery.

The Basics 

  • Back pain is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. More people miss work due to back pain than anything else.
  • Spinal surgery refers to three main types of surgery which are vertebral fusions, discectomies, and laminectomies.
  • Between 1998 and 2008, the yearly number of lumbar fusion surgeries performed in the United States nearly tripled from 77,682 to 210,407.
  • The cost of spinal surgery can range anywhere from $10,000-$150,000.
  • Recovery from surgery can last anywhere from four weeks to over a year. 
  • Spinal surgery is a very serious surgery as it takes place near your spinal cord. 


Balancing the Pros and Cons 

       There are many cases where spinal surgeries are necessary and effective. Whenever specific structural problems or diseases are addressed, the chance of success is very good. Modern technology and advances in medicine have meant spinal surgery can be much less invasive. In some cases, patients are home that same day. We have several patients who saw improvement in range of motion and a decrease in pain within weeks of their surgeries. 

       Unfortunately, there are many risks and side effects with spinal surgery. Surgery can require multiple days of recovery in the hospital. It can be at least four to six weeks before normal activities can resume. There is a 20% chance that re-hospitalization will occur within 30 days. There is also a 26% chance that another spinal surgery will be required. When follow up surgery is required, there is only a 30% chance that it will be successful and a third surgery only a 15% chance of success. Multiple surgeries carry the risk of neurological damage, disability, and chronic pain. Chronic pain is often treated with opioids, which carry the risk of long term dependency and addiction.