Cedars Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital Alert | covid-19 (coronavirus) | information for patients and visitors LEARN MORE >>

Non-Surgical Alternatives to Spinal Fusion

Robert Watkins IV';

By Robert Watkins IV

Posted on October 1st, 2018 in Spine

Non-operative treatment is often sought by people suffering from back issues in an attempt to either prevent further complications or reduce pain.

Conservative care, as it is also referred as, should be thought of as one of the earliest steps to take on the road to recovery, before the condition in question takes a turn for the worse.

The sooner the patient undergoes the therapy they are in need of, the better the chances that their affected areas will respond to nonsurgical care.

About 7.7 million Americans suffer from back pain due to acts that are as uncomplicated as sitting down for most our daily routine, and incorrectly so, thus damaging the spine and provoking a form of degenerative disc disease.

Benefits of Conservative Spinal Care

If you are seeking alternatives to spinal fusion you probably have years of medical care behind you; your pain-relieving medications use may have increased dramatically as your situation degenerates rapidly.

Choosing to treat your pain early in a non-invasive way has the following advantages:

  • you will still be able to work
  • you will improve the flexibility and mobility of your body
  • you will have the necessary knowledge to avoid back injuries in the future

Non-operative Spinal Care Methods

The fundamental goal of non-surgical care is to strengthen the spinal muscles so that they can eventually allow better movements of the spine. The majority of back conditions can be treated by using one or a few non-operative methods, such as:

  • rest
  • anti-inflammatory medication
  • hot/ cold therapy
  • low-impact exercise
  • yoga
  • acupuncture
  • chiropractic
  • epidural injections

The enforcement of any of the non-surgical methods or of a combination of them leads to lowering the pain, increasing function in the targeted parts and offering proper instruction on ways to maintain a correct posture in order to prevent more deterioration.

Alternatives to Spinal Fusion Surgery You Need to Consider

  • Chiropractic. Even if it has been practiced for well over a century, chiropractic has only increased in popularity throughout the last 30 years. The belief is that if the musculoskeletal structure of the body is properly aligned, the spine especially, then the body will be healing on its own without the need for surgical intervention. The chiropractor will apply an abrupt force to a spinal joint either by solely using their hands or a tiny instrument. Generally, chiropractic targets muscles, joints and bones, and the practice is mostly accompanied by a nutritional regimen specifically designed for each patient.
  • Acupuncture. More and more people turn to acupuncture in order to reduce back and neck pain. This form of Chinese medicine has a tradition of at least 2, 500 years of practice. The basic procedure involves thin metallic needles that are inserted into specific areas of the body with the purpose of stimulating the nervous system, especially the brain and spinal cord in conjunction. The idea behind the practice of acupuncture is that improvements have to be done while having the whole body in mind because local healing will only be possible by providing a total harmony.
  • Epidural injections. An epidural injection can help reduce pain caused by some type of inflammation of the spinal nerves. The targeted area is the epidural space of the spine, which allows the medication to reach as close to the affected nerves as possible. Besides pain relief, an epidural injection might as well identify more precisely problem areas, thus helping your doctor get a better idea of where exactly lays the root of your pain, especially useful in situations in which the patient claims multiple aching points.
  • Neurotomy. Neurotomy, also called radiofrequency ablation (RFA), is a minimally invasive procedure performed in a hospital or medical clinic by a pain specialist or neurosurgeon using mild sedation and local anesthetic. Although neurotomy doesn’t fix the cause of your back pain, it can help relieve pain originating in a facet or sacroiliac joint.
  • Cold laser. Cold laser is a therapy that uses specific wavelengths of light to accelerate the body’s own healing processes. During this procedure, different wavelengths and outputs of low-level light are applied directly to a targeted area to reduce pain and inflammation. There’s some evidence for the effectiveness of cold laser but the studies are limited.
  • Exercise program and physical therapy. A consistent exercise program and a healthy diet can work together to have a positive impact on how you feel every day. Physical therapy is an essential part of pain management and a great tool you can use to build strength, and gain a better understanding of proper posture and spine health. Daily stretches and exercises can help you decrease pain while increasing your mobility with controlled, targeted exercises.

Discuss Your Options With Our Highly Trained Spine Surgeons at Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital

The above-mentioned are just a few of the alternatives to spinal fusion, but every case is unique. Spinal fusion is a safe and effective option for treating a variety of spine conditions, but these alternatives may be more realistic for you depending on your situation. As with any medical condition, you will need to discuss your particular situation with your doctor to receive recommendations on care.