Surgery may be indicated for severe conditions of the back, such as if there is impact on the nerves causing substantial problems including pain, numbness or weakness in your back or legs, or difficulties with bowel or bladder control. It may be done as an emergency if there is trauma or severe injury, or electively as an alternative option if conservative measures have not sufficiently improved symptoms.
The decision to undergo spinal surgery is often done in collaboration with your GP, Neurosurgeon, and physiotherapist, and is based on the severity of your symptoms, functional limitations and extensive investigations. At times it may be necessary to complete a period of conservative management or trial injections before surgery is considered.
Physiotherapy post-operatively can assist in decreasing pain, improving mobility and flexibility, improving strength. You will generally be seen within 24 hours of surgery and will be taught safe techniques to get in and out of bed and start moving. Your doctor will ensure pain relief is adequate.
Once discharged from hospital your physiotherapist can progress and monitor your exercises and activity levels. It is not uncommon for full recovery to take 6 months or longer. Information and advice can be given regarding safe return to exercise, work or recreation, and reduce the risk of re-injury.
This surgery is performed when, due to injury or ageing, material from the intervertebral disc herniates and puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. It is generally minimally invasive, and involves removal of part of the intervertebral disc. This procedure generally has a shorter hospital stay and faster recovery.
A laminectomy may be used to treat conditions such as osteoarthritis, intervertebral disc injuries, cysts or tumours or spinal stenosis. These conditions can reduce the space that spinal nerves need when exiting the spinal column. The surgery involves trimming the bones and ligaments where the nerve exits to creates more room, minimising pressure and reducing symptoms.
Lumbar fusion procedures may be performed to treat significant injuries including spinal stenosis, fractures, disc injuries, tumours or cysts, scoliosis and spondylolisthesis. It consists of using bone grafts and external devices such as screws to hold two or more segments of the spine together. This is aimed at increasing stability and reducing pain but is also associated with decreased flexibility. Recovery is generally slower than the other procedures.
If you’re planning on spinal surgery, be sure to maintain open discussion with the GP and surgeon involved in your care. Extensive consideration should be given to the potential risks and benefits.
If you’d like to discuss your health or upcoming surgery with any of our allied health staff, you can: