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Why Spinal Surgery Is A Last Resort

  • Category: Spine Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: DR. HAMID ABBASI

At Inspired Spine, all conservative measures such as physical therapy, heat packs, icing, injections, and manual manipulation are first tried in patients who experience pain or other symptoms related to their spine. Patients are required to fulfill a specific duration of conservative therapy treatment before surgery is considered an option.

With the exception of emergencies, spinal surgery usually is an elective procedure. Many people today experience chronic pain that can greatly affect the quality of life. Surgeries are usually done to relieve the pressure that is compressing a nerve or to stabilize a portion of the spine.

Due to the advancement of the medical field, minimally invasive keyhole spinal surgery is now available and many may argue that it is much safer and possibly more effective than traditional open surgery. Since only a small incision is made, minimal blood loss, short hospital stays and fast recovery rates, why should minimally invasive spinal surgery not be the first treatment option?

Why Spinal Surgery is a Last Resort

  • Outcome – Although literature have shown various success stories and high satisfaction rates, failure rates can vary from 10 – 40%. This is known as failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS). There are many factors that surgeons and doctors cannot fully control. For example, the development of scar tissue, more instability in the spine leading to compressions of the nerves, or sometimes, simply unmet expectations of what the surgery could have done. Some patients have reported persistent pain despite having undergone surgery.


  • Options – Many researchers have proven that conservative therapy can just be as effective compared to surgery for the majority of patients. Conservative therapy is non-invasive. Options such as physical therapy has helped many patients by the alleviation of pain. In sciatica, rest and activity modification alone for 6 weeks resolves symptoms for 80% of patients. Conservative methods are also less costly compared to surgery. Many studies have compared early surgery versus prolonged conservative care in patients with lumbar (lower back) herniated disc and found that there was no difference in outcome at 12 and 24 months after treatments.
  • Expectations – Patients should be made to understand that surgery is not a cure-it-all. Many patients think that surgery is the easiest treatment but fail to realize that physical therapy after surgery plays an important role in the success of their surgery and shortens recovery time significantly. Patients may be required to attend physical therapy for up to 6 weeks or more, depending on their progress and limits. For some, repeated surgery may be needed when their symptoms do not resolve to an acceptable level.

Patients unsure of what treatment methods to choose should consider a second opinion with a qualified Inspired Spine surgeon. If surgery is being considered, it is important to consider the risks and benefits of both the surgery and anesthesia. Not all patients are suitable for surgery due to their current medical condition or age. Since most back surgeries are an elective procedure, it is recommended that patients take their time to research their options and choices carefully before settling for surgery.

For those unfortunate few who have failed conservative treatment, a minimally invasive keyhole surgery with Inspired Spine’s technology is the best option. The treatments are faster and the recovery is quicker than with traditional fusion procedures. Call Inspired Spine today!


  • Jacobs WCH, van Tulder M, Arts M, et al. Surgery versus conservative management of sciatica due to a lumbar herniated disc: a systematic review. European Spine Journal. 2011; 20(4):513-522. doi: 10.1007/s00586-010-1603-7
  • Highsmith JM. Spine surgery: the last resort. Spine Universe. Accessed 6/22/2017.