Does spinal fusion eliminate back pain?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Although the majority of patients experience a substantial reduction in pain, complete freedom from pain after spinal fusion is rare. Watch the video for more on results of spinal fusion

Kyle True, DC
Chiropractic Medicine

Spinal fusion has been shown to help back pain, and has also been shown to not help back pain. Healthy spines needs to be able to move (left, right, flex, extend, etc.) and rely on the vertebrae above and below for help and support with movement and load (work as a team). Movement in our vertebrae is healthy for them and is what we need. However, when a vertebrae is stuck in a position and isn't moving the way it normally does (restriction or subluxation) we get pain, spasms, irritation. This makes the vertebrae above and below that segment work extra hard (if we ask our moving joints in our body to work harder than what is normal, which is how we develop arthritis. Like anything, we wear down overtime and if we work one area to hard it will wear faster than the other. Ex: a car with an alignment problem.) 

So when it comes to spinal fusion, in my opinion fusion may not be the best answer to eliminate back pain. But if fusion is a must (as in the case of a spondylolisthesis causing nerve damage and compromising the spinal cord, due to a complete break of bilateral pars interarticularis) then it will be deemed necessary. However, if you fuse the that segment of the spine. You will stress the moving segments above and below and ask them to pick up the extra slack which will lead to arthritic conditions developing.

If possible, resort to other therapies, Chiropractic, Yoga, and Physical Therapy. Chiropractic has been proven to be just as effective, if not more effective at treating back pain than any other therapy. Research your options. 

Hooman M. Melamed, MD
A patient should consider a spinal fusion after exhausting all conservative therapies.  The success of the fusion in eliminating back pain really depends on many factors including the patient's emotional status, pain medication history, if the patient is a smoker, medical history, age, the method of fusion and the reason for why the fusion is being done.  I believe that with the combination of the right motivated patient, the right diagnosis and the right technique for fusion, a patient can have up to 90% or more pain relief.  Typically patients who are having the fusion surgery to fix and stabalize an abnormal motion segment in spine (spondylolisthesis or retrolisthesis), or to restore proper alignment in a scoliosis (abnormal S shaped curve of spine) or kyphosis (pitch forward posture) tend to do extremely well and are quite happy.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.