Is disk replacement surgery an effective treatment for low back pain?
Answer From Paul M. Huddleston, III, M.D.
Fortunately, very few people who experience low back or neck pain will require a surgery to obtain relief from their discomfort. But if conservative treatments haven't resolved your pain within six months and your doctor has determined that your disk joint is the source of your chronic pain, you might be a candidate for disk replacement surgery.
Spinal fusion — the most common type of back surgery for painful joints — involves fusing two or more vertebrae together. Disk replacement surgery is a newer procedure that replaces the problem disk joint with an artificial one made of metal and plastic.
In general, it appears that spinal fusion and disk replacement procedures are equally effective. There are some special considerations and restrictions that you should review with your spine care provider before pursuing this treatment option. In some cases, intensive rehabilitation programs appear to work just as well as either type of surgery — at a lower cost and with fewer complications.
April 20, 2019
Paul M. Huddleston, III, M.D.
See more Expert Answers
- Firestein GS, et al., eds. Low back pain. In: Kelley and Firestein's Textbook of Rheumatology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2017. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 6, 2017.
- Chou R. Subacute and chronic low back pain: Surgical treatment. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Sept. 6, 2017.