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Back Attack 

When chronic back pain requires surgery, here are a few of the most common options.

If you’re one of the 31 million Americans dealing with back pain, you understand that relief is a top priority. Second only to respiratory illness in leading to time off work, back pain often responds to doctor-prescribed treatments, such as over-the-counter pain relievers, inflammation-reducing medicines and exercise. But for chronic symptoms, those that last more than three months, your physician may recommend surgery. Here are some things you need to know about the most common procedures for addressing back pain.

Spinal Fusion

Fusion joins two or more of the vertebrae of the spine together so that motion no longer occurs between them.

Recommended for: Treatment of broken vertebrae, correction of a deformity, pain relief or increased stability.

What to expect: Post surgery discomfort and recovery time are longest with this type of back surgery. The surgeon must see evidence of bone healing before increasing your activity level, which can take several weeks. Talk with your doctor regarding time away from work, which can range from as little as four to six weeks to as much as four to six months, depending on your specific procedure, age and type job.

Cervical Laminoplasty

In order to relieve pain from arthritis, bone spurs and tumors, this procedure reduces pressure on the spinal cord by increasing the space around it.

Recommended for: A condition called myelopathy, which can develop as a result of severe pressure. Patients experience difficulty walking or using hands, lack of balance and upper body numbness, and pain or weakness.

What to expect: Initial pain in the neck area gradually decreases over several months. Expect a hospital stay of two or three days and the use of a neck collar after surgery. Time off from work varies.

Open Discectomy and Laminectomy

In this procedure, a surgeon removes some ligament, bone and disc material to lessen back and leg pain.

Recommended for: Herniated or ruptured discs of the lumbar spine.

What to expect: Your doctor may limit lifting and sitting following the operation, but walking is encouraged early and often to increase mobility and curb growth of scar tissue. Most folks may return to work between two and four weeks; however, those with physical jobs may wait a bit longer.