Back pain is incredibly common among Americans, affecting about 80% of us at some point in our lifetimes. This pain typically is in the lower back.

While back pain may be a passing inconvenience for most people, in some cases, this spine-related pain can be debilitating and disrupt everyday life. First-line treatment for back pain usually involves at-home care, including the application of ice or heat to the affected area and/or the use of over-the-counter or prescription pain medications or anti-inflammatory drugs.

For severe cases of spine-related pain, basic care may not be enough. Surgical treatment is the recommended option when noninvasive treatment doesn’t alleviate discomfort and other symptoms persist.

When surgery is required, minimally invasive spine surgery may be an option. For candidates who meet the criteria, this type of spine surgery offers a less invasive procedure with many recovery-related health benefits.

Benefits of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

In the past, open surgery was used for spine procedures. An open procedure involves “opening” the area with a large incision to give the surgeon space to move around and maneuver within the surgical area.

Recovery from an open spinal procedure is often lengthy and may have unpleasant side effects, including lingering pain. Minimally invasive spine surgery is performed through a much smaller incision, which allows the surgeon to avoid significantly damaging the muscles around the spine. Damage to those muscles is part of what requires a lengthier recovery time following an open procedure.

To provide access to the surgical area and limit damage during this minimally invasive surgery, a surgeon uses a microscopic camera to guide tiny instruments through a small incision. When compared with open spinal procedures, minimally invasive spine surgery offers patients a faster and safer procedure with reduced recovery time. Benefits also include:

  • Faster recovery
  • Less postoperative pain
  • Less risk of muscle damage
  • Less scarring
  • Reduced blood loss during surgery
  • Reduced need for pain medication
  • Reduced risk of infection
  • Smaller skin incisions

Types of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

While minimally invasive spine surgery isn’t an option in all cases and for all types of spine-related pain, it can be used to successfully treat a number of conditions. Conditions often treated with minimally invasive spine surgery include:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Herniated disc
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis
  • Scoliosis and other spinal deformities
  • Spinal infections or tumors
  • Spinal instability, such as spondylolisthesis
  • Vertebral compression fractures

To treat the conditions identified above and others related to the spine, there are a number of different minimally invasive spine procedures. Common types of minimally invasive spine surgery include:

  • Discectomy, which trims or removes the herniated portion of a disc in the back
  • Kyphoplasty, which relieves vertebrae compression by inserting a balloon to restore the bones original height and injecting cement into it to rebuild the vertebrae
  • Laminectomy, which removes a portion of the bone located at the back of each vertebrae to decompress the spinal nerve roots
  • Lumbar fusion, which joins together two vertebrae in the lower back together to stabilize them
  • Vertebroplasty, which is a procedure that injects cement into the bone to keep the bone from collapsing or breaking more

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