When to Consider Spinal Surgery for Back Pain

Aug 01, 2023
When to Consider Spinal Fusion for Back Pain
Chronic back pain can significantly disrupt your life. However, modern medicine provides a glimmer of hope with spinal fusions. Learn more about when to consider this complex procedure as a viable solution for your back pain.

If you've ever lived with chronic back pain, you know it's unbearable. It can be incredibly disabling, turning simple things you often take for granted, like bending to tie your shoelaces, into daunting tasks. 

Usually many nonsurgical treatment options, including physical therapy, medications, and alternative therapies like acupuncture alleviate the pain.  However, sometimes they just don't cut it.

If you continue to experience chronic and persistent pain after trying these treatment options, it might be time to consider more serious measures like surgery. Among various surgical options, spinal fusion or artificial disc replacement has proven to be one of the most effective. 

When it comes to something as complex and critical as spinal surgery, you want to ensure you're in the most capable hands. At HAAS Spine & Orthopaedics in Glendale, Santa Ana, and Upland, California, Dr. Stepan Kasimian and his skilled team bring years of experience and a patient-centric approach to every surgery.

Take a moment as we delve into the signs that it might be time to consider spinal fusion to relieve your back pain.

What is spinal fusion? 

Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure designed to join, or "fuse," two or more vertebrae in your spine. Vertebrae are the small, interlocking bones that make up your spine, and between each vertebrae is a disc that provides cushioning and facilitates movement.

In certain conditions, these discs can cause pain. Spinal fusion aims to eliminate the movement between the affected vertebrae, reducing or preventing the pain you feel.

During the fusion surgery, we place a graft, which can be a piece of bone or bone-like material, between the vertebrae that are being fused. Over time, this graft helps the vertebrae to merge into one solid bone.

During artificial disc replacement the disc is replaced with a prosthetic device that allows motion of the spine. 

To ensure that the vertebrae stay in place while they're fusing, we may use hardware such as rods, screws, or plates to provide support and stability.

When is spinal fusion or artificial disc necessary?

Spinal surgery isn't typically the first line of treatment for back pain. It's considered when nonsurgical treatments have failed to relieve your discomfort. Here are situations when artificial disc may suite your condition.  The pain does not improve with conservative care, the spine does not have severe arthritis and we are able to identify one or maybe two discs as the source of pain.  And here are situations or conditions where a spinal fusion may be considered.

Degenerative disc disease

This is a condition where the discs between your vertebrae wear down over time. When these discs can't do their job properly, you may have painful bone-on-bone contact. In this situation, spinal fusion can stop the movement between the affected vertebrae.


Scoliosis is a condition where the spine has an abnormal side-to-side curve, like an "S" or "C," rather than a straight line. If this curve is severe, it can cause pain and other problems. Spinal fusion may straighten and stabilize the spine.

Spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis develops when the space within your spine becomes narrow. This narrowing can put pressure on your spinal cord and the nerves that travel through your spine, leaving you in pain. Spinal fusion can help to create more space and reduce this pressure.

Herniated disc

Sometimes, a disc between your vertebrae can be more than just worn down — it can slip out of place. Known as a herniated disc, it can press on the nerves in your spine, causing pain. If nonsurgical treatments aren't successful, spinal fusion may be an option.


This condition occurs when one of your vertebrae slips forward over the vertebra below it. Depending on how far the vertebra has slipped, spinal fusion might be used to correct the misalignment and alleviate pain.

Benefits of spinal fusion 

The benefits of spinal fusion are numerous, led by pain relief. By creating a solid union between the affected vertebrae, spinal fusion can significantly decrease or even eliminate your chronic pain. 

Additionally, although the fused section of your spine loses its independent mobility, general mobility can improve due to reduced pain. Enhanced mobility, coupled with diminished pain, can greatly increase your overall function, getting you back to activities you may have abandoned due to back pain. 

Persistent back pain can significantly impair your quality of life, but when noninvasive treatments fail to provide relief, it's reassuring to know that spinal fusion offers hope. 

As with any medical decision, consulting with trusted health care professionals is crucial. The highly skilled and experienced team at HAAS Spine & Orthopaedics is ready to guide you on your journey toward a pain-free life. Request an appointment online or call us at 818-500-9286 today.