Spinal Fusion: Is It a Good Option for Your Back or Neck Pain?

Every year, about 65 million Americans suffer from a bout of back pain, and for about 16 million of them, the pain sticks around for months or years, according to a study from Georgetown University. Chronic back pain in this country leads to more than 83 million lost work days and more than $12 billion in medical expenses. 

If you’re one of the unfortunate many who live with persistent back pain, these numbers probably don’t surprise you. What might surprise you is that you may be able to break free from those statistics and your back pain with an effective treatment called spinal fusion.

Spinal fusion isn’t for everybody or every back condition, but if it’s right for you, it may solve the underlying problem causing your constant discomfort. To find out if you’re a good candidate, book a consultation with Dr. Patrick S. McNulty at McNulty Spine in Las Vegas and Henderson, Nevada. 

Not only is he a double board-certified, award-winning orthopedic surgeon, he’s also known for his personable relationships with his patients and skillful use of both time-honored traditional techniques and advanced technology.

Dr. McNulty specializes in diagnosing and treating all types of spinal disorders and deformities. If you have a condition that warrants spinal fusion, he helps you navigate your options so you can make an informed decision that’s best for you. 

What conditions does spinal fusion treat?

Back and neck pain stems from a variety of conditions, and not all of them can be solved by spinal fusion. However, if the source of your pain is related to the movement of your vertebrae, spinal fusion stops the movement and ends your pain. This is a surgical procedure that permanently connects two or more of your vertebrae together with a combination of your own bone stem cells and synthetic crystalline bone material, with metal screws, rods, and cages/spacers.  

If your back or neck pain is caused by one of the following conditions, talk to Dr. McNulty about whether spinal fusion can help.

Spinal stenosis

When the space in your spinal column narrows, the nerves that run in and out of the space get pinched, causing pain/numbness anywhere along the length of the nerve, as well as weakness. This can occur in your lower back or your neck.  Spinal stenosis can pinch the spinal cord in your neck and effect the function of your arms and legs, including more subtle issues such as your dexterity, balance while walking, and bowel/bladder urgency. 

Scoliosis

When viewed from the back, your spine should be straight, but if it takes on a side-to-side S-curve, you have scoliosis, an abnormal development that affects your body alignment and gait.

Loss of lordosis

When viewed from the side, your spine should have a gentle S-curve (called lordosis) at the neck and lower back areas. If that S becomes flattened, you have a loss of lordosis and likely some pain and limited mobility. 

Herniated or degenerated discs

The discs between your spinal vertebrae provide a cushion that prevents your bones from rubbing together. If they’ve degenerated due to age or disease, they no longer provide that protection.

If you damage a disc in an injury, it can bulge out, slip out of position, or even rupture. The protrusion often irritates or compresses nearby nerves and causes intense pain.

Kyphosis

If you have a hump in your upper spine that forces you to bend forward, you may have kyphosis. This condition changes the shape of your vertebrae from cylinders to wedges, which alters the way they fit together.

Spondylosis

Spondylosis is a general term that describes several types of spinal degeneration, including osteoarthritis. 

Spinal fractures and infection

Injured and diseased vertebrae cause pain every time you move. If the condition can’t be resolved, spinal fusion may alleviate the pain by stopping the movement.

Spondylolisthesis 

Malalignment of vertebrae either forward, backwards, or to the side referencing the vertebra below it. This condition can be very painful and problematic, and typically responds well to a fusion between vertebrae. 

Mobility after spinal fusion

If you and Dr. McNulty decide that spinal fusion is the best treatment for your condition, he uses the latest technology and the least invasive procedure possible to perform the procedure. Depending on the problem, he may combine your spinal fusion with other treatments, such as a laminectomy to create more space in your spinal column, or a discectomy to remove a portion of a damaged disc. 

If you’re thinking that the fusion of two or more bones sounds like it may limit your mobility, you may be surprised to hear that it often has the opposite effect, especially in your neck. Of course, if you enjoyed a full range of motion in your spine prior to spinal fusion, then your post-surgery movement would be somewhat limited. However, most patients have extremely limited mobility before they undergo spinal fusion because the pain prevents them from moving freely. In these cases, spinal fusion dramatically decreases pain and increases range of motion. 

To learn more about spinal fusion and its potential to treat your back pain, schedule an appointment online or call us today. 

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