Back in action: When surgery is the best option for pain relief
Whether it hinders the ability to shovel your driveway, play with your kids or do your best at work, neck and back pain can put serious strain on your life. In fact, it’s one of the most common medical conditions and accounts for more trips to the doctor’s office than any other complaint.
Advancements in surgical procedures, including image-guided techniques, are improving patients’ quality of life by providing needed relief for back and neck pain.
A pain in the neck (and back)
Research suggests about eight out of 10 Americans will experience pain associated with the spine  at some point in their life. According to Michael T. Rohmiller, M.D ., orthopaedic spine surgeon with The Christ Hospital Spine Institute , the most common causes for neck and back pain are:
Herniated discs – When the discs between the vertebrae (the bones that make up the spine) press against nerves, it’s called a herniated disc.The two most common areas for herniated discs are in the lower back (between the ribs and hips) and the neck. Herniated discs in the lower back often cause leg pain, while disc herniations in the neck usually cause arm pain.
Arthritis of the spine – Also known as spondylosis, arthritis can affect all parts of the spine. Pain, stiffness, limited range of motion, weakness, tingling in the arms and legs, and, in some cases, loss of balance are all symptoms associated with spondylosis.
Degenerative disc disease – This includes the gradual breakdown of the discs in the spine resulting from wear and tear. When the discs lose flexibility and elasticity, it can result in decreased mobility and pain. Degenerative disc disease mostly occurs in the lower back.
Spinal stenosis – A narrowing of the spinal canal, which can happen at any location in the spine, is known as spinal stenosis. The narrowing can be either congenital or acquired as part of a degenerative disease. It can lead to difficulty with balance, weakness in the legs with prolonged standing or walking, and loss of nerve function in the hands or feet.
Sciatica – This is a very general type of nerve pain, which follows the path of the sciatic nerve in the buttock and posterior thigh. Pain or tingling associated with sciatica is typically the result of damage to or compression of the sciatic nerve.
Pinched nerves – These can be caused by any type of pressure on a nerve in the neck or back, such as from disc herniation or bone spur. Symptoms can include numbness, tingling, a burning sensation or shooting pain in the neck, shoulders, arms and fingers or down the buttocks and legs.
A better approach to surgery
“Most conditions causing pain in the spine can be treated non-operatively using a combination of medications, physical therapy and steroid injections,” Dr. Rohmiller says. “But if those treatments don’t bring relief, there are surgical options that can be considered.” The type of surgical procedure is based on the cause, location and severity of the pain.
Minimally invasive techniques can include spinal fusion, discectomy and laminectomy  and are commonly used to treat herniated discs, degenerative disc diseases, spinal stenosis and pinched nerves. Using a minimally invasive approach, patients typically experience less pain and weakness, lower risk for infection and faster recovery following surgery.
CT imaging technology used during minimally invasive surgical procedures at The Christ Hospital give spinal surgeons, like Dr. Rohmiller, the ability to capture detailed images of the spine without having to make large incisions.
The Christ Hospital’s state-of-the-art technology, such as the O-arm® Multidimensional Imaging System and the Stealth Intra-operative Guidance System, provides real-time, high-resolution 3-D images of the spine during surgery. The equipment also enhances surgical precision when placing spinal implants, removing degenerative bone or discs or fusing vertebrae.
“At The Christ Hospital, we perform more spinal surgeries than any other hospital in the Greater Cincinnati area,” says Dr. Rohmiller. “Because our staff is highly trained in the procedures and both pre- and post-operative care, patients see superior results.”
To learn more about your treatment options, call our spine care nurse at 513-585-BACK or visit www.TheChristHospital.com .