How effective is spinal fusion for relieving lower back pain?

David A. Hanscom, MD
Spine Surgery
Many fusion surgeries for low back pain (LBP) cause more harm than good. Patients often see little or no improvement, or they were worse off than before. Some end up with severe deformities when their spines break down above and below a fusion. Hundreds of thousand of fusions are performed annually in this country for LBP, and some patients frequently undergo multiple surgeries within a short period of time. An initial fusion can lead to a cavalcade of disasters. Finally, it’s estimated that fusion eliminates LBP less than 33% of the time.
Back in Control: A spine surgeon's roadmap out of chronic pain

More About this Book

Back in Control: A spine surgeon's roadmap out of chronic pain

In Back in Control, Dr. Hanscom focuses on an aspect of chronic pain that the medical world has largely overlooked: you must calm your nervous system in order to get better. Beyond any other book about back pain, Back in Control reveals how to quiet a turbocharged central nervous system and make a full recovery. His life-changing system has helped hundreds of patients heal their pain. These patients’ stories, as well as his own, show that you can take charge of your care and set yourself on the road to a healthy, rich and full life.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Results of spinal fusion for lower back pain vary from one patient to another. A good result is pain decreased by 50% or more, and is achieved in 60%-70% of patients. Complete freedom from pain after spinal fusion is rare. Full recovery can take more than a year. Watch the video for more on spinal fusion.


Hooman M. Melamed, MD
There are many factors that determine whether how effective a spinal fusion is for relieving lower back pain including patient's emotional status, pain medication status, 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 the combination of the right patient, with the right diagnosis and the right technique for fusion can lead to more than 90% 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.