So here’s a recent article about the use of lumbar fusion for chronic low back pain. The conclusion is very clear: “The present meta-analysis determined that fusion surgery was no better than nonoperative treatment in terms of the pain and disability outcomes either at short- or long-term follow up.”
If someone has recommended that you get a fusion to treat your low back pain, read this article first. If you don’t read the article, we urge you to at least read the conclusion. Fusions are becoming more common and are increasingly perceived as fairly innocuous. But this is most certainly not the case.
The risks associated with the surgical procedure are severe; and anyone who tells you otherwise is either misinformed or lying. This study also reports a higher complication rate with the surgical recipients, which is no surprise to me. I know I will hear from some of you who say, “But I had a fusion and it went fine,” or “I know someone who had a fusion and it went fine.” We're not saying that it never helps. What we are saying is that you should weigh the costs and the risks. You should also exhaust every other option before going down that road.
So what should you do? Work hard and don’t cut corners. Work under the guidance of a qualified practitioner who has a track record of helping people resolve pain and get their lives back without surgery. Work with someone who understands how long it will take and who can give you unique guidance based on your individual needs and lifestyle, not someone who says, “Twice per week for six weeks because that is what’s on the prescription.” Take the time to understand what you need to do and make a plan. Then actually follow it. When it comes to getting out of chronic low back pain, there simply are no shortcuts.
Wenbo, X., et al. Is lumbar fusion necessary for chronic low back pain associated with degenerative disc disease? A meta-analysis. World Neurosurgery, Volume 146, February 2021, Pages 298-306.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.