Chronic Back Pain

March 23, 2021

Chronic back or neck pain can be the worst and most limiting types of pain. Surgery is sometimes necessary to treat spine pain either caused by a serious accident, injury, or medical condition, or when chronic pain does not respond to nonsurgical treatment options. 

Spine surgery is more advanced than ever and many spine procedures can now be performed using minimally invasive techniques and performed at an outpatient surgical center. To help you understand your surgical options, it helps to know the key differences between open spine surgery and minimally invasive spine surgery and how Columbia Orthopaedic Group and COG's outpatient surgical center are positioned to deliver a wide array of spine care needs.

What is minimally invasive spine surgery? How is it different than open spine surgery?

Minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS) is an alternative to traditional open surgical procedures performed to treat different spinal disorders (back and neck).

Very small instruments are used to remove pieces of damaged vertebral bone, cartilage, and/or spinal disc. This type of minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS) results in less damage to the muscles and soft tissues that surround the spine, which leads to an expedited recovery and less post-operative pain. When compared to patients who undergo open surgery, patients who undergo minimally invasive surgery usually experience the following:

Chronic Back Pain
  • Less blood loss during surgery
  • Less postoperative pain
  • A faster recovery (Most patients are discharged within 2 or 3 days but some procedures can be performed on our outpatient surgical center
  • Less rehabilitation
  • A smaller and less noticeable scar
  • Less risk of infection

The two most commonly performed minimally invasive spine surgery procedures are a discectomy and a spinal fusion.

In addition, some MIS surgeries are performed as outpatient procedures and utilize only local anesthesia — so there is less risk for an adverse reaction to general anesthesia.

Open Spine Surgical Procedure

During standard open spine surgery, the surgeon creates a large incision (usually about six inches long) in the back and dissects the spinal muscles to pull them away from the bone in a process called retraction. Once they visualize the bones of the spine, they will begin the necessary spinal procedure. Certain open spine surgeries require the surgeon to go in from the front through a large abdominal incision. According to the American Aca Open surgery requires:

  • Anesthesia
  • Large incisions
  • Muscle retraction
  • Long surgery times
  • Hospitalization
  • Long recovery times

Whether minimally invasive or traditional, the goals are the same for the long-term; at COG, we want to accomplish overall improvement in symptoms or a halt in degeneration. Ultimately, we want our procedures to result in less blood loss, shorter hospital stays, lower infection rates and faster recovery in the weeks following surgery. Minimally invasive surgery typically results in an easier recovery process for patients, however, not every patient or surgical condition is appropriate for minimally invasive surgery. It is important that you partner with your spine surgeon to identify the best treatment option for your condition.  

Patients who would like a solution to their spine pain problem are encouraged to make an appointment with one of our Orthopaedic spine specialists at COG. Our spine specialist team will customize an appropriate treatment plan based on your unique condition and lifestyle.