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Three Main Types of Back Surgery

Apr 13, 2015

Dealing with back pain is frustrating and can affect many aspects of your daily life. It can make moving, bending, or walking nearly impossible. If you’ve undergone non-operative treatment methods without any pain relief, it may be time for you to consider your surgical options.

The three main types of back surgery include spinal fusion, laminectomy, and discectomy. These surgical procedures can be very effective in correcting the problems causing your pain.

If you believe back surgery could be the right choice for you, learn more about your options and discuss them with your physician. He or she will be able to determine the best option for your specific situation.

Spinal Fusion

This is the most common surgery for back pain. When someone is suffering from back pain, it’s typically triggered when the joint is in motion. During a spinal fusion procedure, the surgeon will fuse bones of the spine, or vertebrae, together to stop the motion from occurring. When the vertebrae are fused, the joint can’t move, and the pain is alleviated.

While this method is effective in reducing pain, it can’t be performed on multiple areas of the spine. The spine provides motion to the body, so if there are multiple vertebrae that have been fused together, the limited motion will be a problem and could even lead to additional pain.


During a laminectomy, the surgeon will remove the lamina, which is a part of the bone that makes up the vertebrae in your spine. Bone spurs or ligaments in the back may also be removed during this procedure. By removing these bones, bone spurs, or ligaments, extra room is created in the spinal column. With this extra room, the pressure that was being placed on the spinal nerve is eliminated, and the patient no longer has to deal with pain or weakness.

In some cases, a large portion of bone must be removed which can cause instability of the spine. When this happens, a spinal fusion may be necessary.

This surgery is ideal for patients who are dealing with severe, chronic pain or loss of function due to bone spurs. Results typically last for years, although it is possible for bone spurs to return.


If you’re dealing with a herniated disc, you may be eligible for a discectomy. These discs in the spine act as shock absorbers and provide cushioning in between the vertebrae. However, when one of these discs slips out of place or bulges and becomes herniated, it can put intense pressure on the spinal nerve and cause back pain. To treat this pain, a surgeon will remove all or part of the disc.

There is little chance that a herniated disc will occur again in this location because most of the disc will have been removed.

For more information on spine and back surgery, download our e-book, The Patient’s Manual to Spine and Back Surgery. This educational guide will answer any questions you have about spinal injuries and surgical procedures to help you be as informed and prepared as possible.