If you have chronic back pain and have tried all manner of conservative treatments – including physical therapy and alternative methods such as inversion therapy, acupuncture and massage – to no avail, you may be starting to consider surgery. Nobody wants to have an invasive procedure, particularly on the spine, but, for a small percentage of patients with relentless pain, this may be the only hope left for avoiding disability.
The decision to have back surgery is hard for anyone, but it may be particularly difficult for patients on the younger side. Degenerated spinal discs tend to be present in very young adults, but they normally don’t cause symptoms. A select few are not so lucky. Some patients in their thirties and forties are facing the very real prospect of surgery due to worn spinal discs.
There are a number of different procedures out there for dealing with discogenic pain. Spinal fusion is one of the most popular, but also one of the most invasive and costly. Not everyone experiences relief from back surgery, and the risk of failure may be the most frightening for risk of all for many surgery candidates.
Fortunately, there are minimally invasive options out there for some patients. A newer technique currently being researched and practiced is intradiscal biacuplasty.
This procedure involves the use of a needle-guided electrode that causes intentional damage to nerves in the outer shell of spinal discs. These nerves are, for some patients, the root of chronic back pain. The electrodes use electrical current to damage nerves that are causing pain, which stops the transmission of pain signals.
Recently a follow-up study was conducted to assess the progress of a group of 42 patients who had received intradiscal biacuplasty for degenerated discs one year earlier; this is the longest study period into the treatment method to date. On average, their pain scores decreased by 2.9 points on a 10-point scale, and their physical function scores improved by 22 points on a 100-point scale. See more on the study at www.sciencedaily.com.
This study is small but promising. Researchers note that this form of surgery is only appropriate for patients on the younger side who have no more than two damaged discs. Patients may be able to obtain insurance coverage for the procedure if it can be shown to be medically necessary.
If you’re a young candidate for back surgery, talk with a doctor and surgeon about intradiscal biacuplasty. You may need to do some surgeon-shopping as the procedure is not as popular as other methods, but this effort may be well worth it when you consider the shorter recovery time and lower cost of this minimally-invasive procedure