Back pain is more common than most people would like it to be. It is one of the most common reasons people visit their PCP. Treatment costs for back pain throughout the world are astronomical. In Australia alone, $5 billion is spent on back pain and when it is broken down, that is mainly for surgical procedures.
Rates of spinal fusion have been rising in recent years. In the US, rates of spinal fusion doubled from 2000 to 2009. Spinal fusion rates in the US are 8 times those in the United Kingdom.
Specifically, spinal fusion is when two or more vertebra are surgical joined, or fused, together to stop them from moving on each other and make one solid bone. When a fracture, major dislocation or tumor is present, fusion may be the only option. This procedure is performed when the cause of pain is thought to be related to degenerative joints or discs. However, studies suggest that spinal fusion for back pain has little advantage over a well-structured rehabilitation program. Approximately 1 in 5 individuals who have undergone spinal fusion, will have a revision surgery within 10 years.
Lastly, although this surgery may be performed to "treat" degeneration of the spine, fusing two joints together will only cause the joints above and below the fusion to degenerate quicker.
If your, PCP, orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon have suggested a spinal fusion, consider speaking with an evidence based chiropractor or physical therapist to learn more about conservative treatment options!
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