What are alternatives to lumbar spinal fusion surgery?

Intermountain Registered Dietitians
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Lumbar spinal fusion surgery (a surgery to join two or more spinal bones—vertebrae—so that they eventually grow into one solid bone) is usually done after non-surgical treatment options have failed. Alternatives to lumbar spinal fusion surgery can include:

  • Medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Traction
  • Spinal injections
  • Watching and waiting

If your symptoms are caused by an unstable spine, lumbar spinal fusion is probably your only effective treatment option. If you feel your symptoms are not severe enough to have surgery, tell your doctor. He or she will respect your decision.

An alternative to lumbar spinal fusion surgery is pain medication with an intensive rehabilitation that also has a cognitive behavioral therapy component (CBT). This can strengthen the core and back muscles to help support the spine, helping to limit further damage. CBT will teach the patient how to better deal with pain, stress and anxiety resulting from chronic back pain.

If pain medication, rehabilitation and CBT fail, another alternative is trigger-point injections at tender points, injections into the epidural space of the spine or facet joint injections between each vertebra.

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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.