Unless your symptoms are particularly severe it would be best to give yourself about 3 months of conservative treatments before looking for other options to help deal with your back problems.
Degenerative disc disease surgery is a major operation with many risks, it really should be your very last option and only attempted once all conservative treatments have been exhausted.
The most common surgical treatment for those who suffer from Degenerative Disc Disease which has failed to be managed by non surgical means is a spinal fusion. There have been advances in disc replacements that have also made artificial disc replacement a viable option but we will be discussing that surgery more in-depth on another page.
For more info about Surgical Procedures
In a spinal fusion surgery, your surgeon will be joining two or more of your vertebrae together by using bone grafts. These grafts are usually taken from the pelvis just above your hip bone. Your doctor may also use screws, rods, cages, and plates to further help support your vertebrae as they heal.
This type of surgery can take up to a year for the fusion to fully heal. As you are waiting for this surgery to heal you will need to limit your physical activities and it is also possible that you may need to wear a back brace so that your spine does not heal improperly.
The risks of spinal fusion are similar to other major spine operations.
Potential risks and complications associated with spinal fusion are:
- Bleeding – Very uncommon but it has been known to happen.
- Infection – Again very uncommon, but it can be very serious if it does happen. Infection can be located at the incision site or inside of your body. If you notice any swelling, pus or tenderness near your incision it would be best to contact you doctor. Fever after surgery is another thing that you will want to keep an eye out for as it can mean your body is trying to fight off an infection and at this point again you will want to contact your doctor as soon as possible.
- Nerve Damage – During surgery it is possible that your nerves may become damaged; this may be permanent or temporary depending on how severe the damage is.
- Allergic Reactions – Although quite rare you may have a reaction to the anesthesia.
- Pain – After surgery you may have pain at the graft site.
- Graft Failures – It is possible for your graft not to fully heal or for your implants, if you had any, to break.
Success rates can vary depending on what type of fusion surgery you have and if any implantation is needed. The typical fusion success rate range is anywhere from 50% to 90%.
Things that you can do to help make this surgery a success is to lose weight if you are obese and if you smoke, quit. Smoking decreases the chance that your surgery will be successful by quite a bit as the toxins in cigarettes can have a direct impact on how healthy your spine is.