Back surgery — it’s a scary, even terrifying, prospect. It wasn’t so long ago that the prospect of back surgery meant long recovery times, with pain and immobility lasting for months on end. But those days are gone, thanks to laparoscopic surgical techniques.
What is laparoscopic back surgery? It’s a minimally invasive surgery that’s performed using tools that are inserted into a small incision, and manipulated inside the body with the help of a camera and video monitor. Because the incisions required are so much smaller, there’s less pain associated with this type of surgery, and recovery takes weeks, not months. Laparoscopic surgery can be used to treat all kinds of back problems, including scoliosis and herniated discs.
How to Tell When You Need Back Surgery
Most back pain patients, except for those who have sustained a serious injury to the spinal cord, won’t receive back surgery until many other treatment options have first been tried with little to no success. That’s because most cases of back pain can be resolved without surgery. Treatments like spinal injections, physical therapy, and chiropractic manipulations may be able to resolve treatments without the need for surgery, and why would you subject yourself to the pain and inconvenience of a back surgery unless you absolutely had to?
Some conditions that might require back surgery include:
· Spinal stenosis or other degenerative conditions, especially if they’re causing side effects
· Bone spurs affecting the spinal cord
· Numbness or weakness in the limbs
· Bowel or bladder incontinence caused by spinal nerve damage
· Dislocation or fracture of the spinal vertebrae
· Problems with using your hands or walking
· A herniated disc that isn’t healing on its own
· An infection of the spine
· A tumor of the spine or spinal cord
Even if you have one of these conditions, an orthopedic surgeon may decide not to operate. He or she may recommend a more conservative treatment first. However, if you’ve been trying conservative treatments for six to 12 months without significant improvement, it may be time to consider surgery.
What to Expect From Laparoscopic Back Surgery
If your doctor suggests minimally invasive back surgery might be most effective, you’ll no doubt want to know what to expect from the procedure. Laparoscopic surgery involves a small incision, using a tubular retractor that gradually expands the opening enough for surgical tools to be inserted. Because the retractor places a more even pressure on the surrounding muscle tissue, there is less potential for damage and, as a result, you’ll experience less pain and a faster recovery time.
The smaller incisions also mean that there’s less potential for blood loss, and these procedures require less damage to healthy tissues. This means that hospital stays are shorter, and recovery time is typically shorter, too. Most patients spend half as long in the hospital after a minimally invasive procedure as after a traditional procedure. Depending on the type of surgery you receive, you may even be released the same day.
What to Expect From Recovery
The length of your recovery will also depend on the nature of your surgery. Some procedures, like bone fusion, require a much longer recovery, even when minimally invasive techniques are used. A recovery time of at least six weeks is to be expected after such a surgery. However, recovery from other procedures may be much shorter. Many patients may be able to return to a part-time work schedule after just two weeks, and normal activities within six weeks.
In general, the length of recovery and the amount of pain and discomfort involved will also be about half as much as is expected from typical back surgery. However, physical therapy is usually an important part of recovery and is usually to be started about two weeks post-surgery. With minimally invasive techniques, physical therapy is far less painful than after a traditional back surgery.
If you’ve been told you’re a candidate for back surgery, consider getting your procedure done using minimally invasive techniques. With smaller incisions, less blood loss, and less tissue damage, laparoscopic back surgery techniques can mean minimal post-operative pain and a shorter recovery time — and that means you’ll be back to your old self before you know it.