Back pain affects millions of Americans each day. It is one of the most common ailments, but one that many fail to seek treatment for. As opposed to what many seem to think, there is no need for people to live in pain. There are treatments available to reduce or eliminate back pain in order to restore a person's comfort and full physical functions. While minimally invasive treatments are always the first line of action, when these efforts prove ineffective, the doctors at Orthopaedic Specialists of Austin offer spine surgery to correct problems affecting the spinal cord. When it comes to damaged discs that are causing significant and prolonged back pain, disc replacement surgery at our Austin, TX practice may be a patient's best option.
Understanding the Role of a Spinal Disc
A disc is the structure that sits between the bones, or vertebrae, of the spine. These discs are softer and spongeier than the bones (similar to cartilage), and are meant to provide cushion for the bones. The discs also allow for flexibility so that the spine can bend and function as it is meant to. If a disc degenerates and weakens, it can lead to significant back pain, and can also limit a patient's range of motion.
Candidates for Disc Replacement
An MRI is often ordered for patients who are suffering from significant and prolonged back pain. If an MRI shows that a disc has become damaged or degenerated, disc replacement surgery may be necessary. However, surgery will never be a patient's first option. If alternative, non-invasive treatments, such as physical therapy, medication, and injections prove ineffective, disc replacement surgery will be considered.
Disc replacement surgery is a technique that requires a great deal of skill and experience. The procedure is performed using general anesthesia, and is likely to require a brief stay in the hospital. During disc replacement surgery, an incision is made along the back to allow access to the disc that has degenerated. Either the majority of, or all of the tissues of the damaged disc will be removed and replaced with an artificial disc. The artificial disc will be fabricated of some combination of plastic and metal, and is meant to mimic the functions of the natural disc. An artificial disc can bear weight, and allow for the natural movement of the spine. Once the artificial disc has been placed, the incision will be closed and recovery can begin.
Benefits of Disc Replacement
In the past, spinal fusion was the typical surgical treatment for a damaged disc. While spinal fusion can eliminate pain, it does compromise a patient's range of motion. One of the benefits of disc replacement surgery is that it allows for motion in the treatment area so that a patient's range of motion is normal to that of the natural spine. Patients are also typically able to become mobile after disc replacement surgery quicker than they would after a spinal fusion.
If you are living with back pain, it is time to seek effective treatment that will restore your quality of life. The doctors at Orthopaedic Specialists of Austin offer a comprehensive range of spine treatments that can help you reduce or completely eliminate your pain. Contact us at your earliest convenience to discuss treatment options.