In lumbar spinal fusion, surgeons connect two or more of the vertebrae in your lumbar spine (between your ribs and hipbone). Extra bone (bone graft) is inserted to fill the space between the spinal bones. Your surgeon may use screws, rods or plates to hold the vertebrae and graft in place. Once the bone graft heals, the vertebrae are permanently connected and painful motion is eliminated.
Mayo Clinic surgeons usually don't recommend spinal fusion as the first treatment for chronic back pain caused by spinal instability or compression (squeezing). Your pain can often be alleviated with alternative treatments such as medications, exercise and lifestyle changes, acupuncture and therapeutic massage.
Mayo Clinic specialists use sophisticated imaging technology to find the cause of your pain. Mayo patients have access to a powerful 3-tesla MRI and other tests to help Mayo specialists determine if you need spinal surgery.