The spine is made of bones called vertebrae. In between these bones are discs, soft cushions that act as “shock absorbers” for the spine. The spine protects the spinal cord, which is the nerve center of the body.
The lumbar spine is the hardest working part of your spine because it carries the most weight and moves the most.
The discs between the vertebrae can wear down over time due to injury or aging. With these “shock absorbers”, pressure on the nerves of the spine can cause pain in the lower back and/or leg. Bone spurs may form and narrow the space through which the nerves pass. This may also lead to nerve irritation and pain.
Spine surgery is recommended when the pressure on the spinal nerves is not relieved through nonsurgical methods such as rest, medication, physical therapy, and/or exercise. People who need spine surgery continue to have pain that impairs their ability to carry out daily functions.
A Message from Your Surgeons
Welcome from your surgeons, Sky Lakes Medical Center and your health care team. We will all be working with you in partnership to prepare you for your spine surgery. Our goal is to return you to your maximum functional ability. You play a vital role in reaching that goal. Recovery is a process that starts before you enter the hospital with education and participation. When you complete your hospital stay, recovery carries on at home and throughout your life. We could not achieve the expected outcomes without your hard work and effort.
You are our most important team member. Together, we will accomplish our team goals of: effective preparation, successful surgical procedure, smooth recovery, and finally, a safe discharge. Your care will be coordinated by your surgeon and a team of Sky Lakes Medical Center nurses. Other members include: physician assistants, physical therapists, occupational therapists, diet aides, and certified nurse assistants.
We hope this information will assist you in preparing for your surgical procedure and will help to facilitate your recovery. Please read it carefully and feel free to ask questions of any team member.
-Dr. Wenner/Dr. Conaughty
Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease is a condition in which the discs in your spine have been damaged or worn down due to aging or wear-and-tear.
Each disc has a spongy center surrounded by tough outer rings. When a disc weakens, the outer rings may not be able to contain the material in the center of the disc. When this material bulges against, or squeezes through, a weak spot or tear in the outer rings, it creates pressure against the nerve, causing pain in your back and/or legs.
Bulging and Ruptured Discs
With a bulging disc, bone surfaces begin to rub against each other. This causes inflammation and pain. Bone spurs (calcium deposits) can also form, causing pain.
Arthritic bone surfaces begin to rub against each other. When this occurs, inflammation and bone spurs can form, causing pain. As bone spurs continue to grow, increased narrowing of the area through which nerves pass causes even more pain.
As the discs wear out and flatten, the vertebrae can slip back and forth. This slipping can cause the outer rings of the discs to stretch, causing pain, but also, more important, decreasing the protection for the spinal cord. Instability may also result from trauma or muscle paralysis.
Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the canal where the spinal cord and nerves pass through. This may be caused by bony growth and/or bulging of the disc. This often occurs as we age. The narrowing creates pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, which may cause swelling, pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness.
Spondylolisthesis is a slippage of one vertebra, causing the spine to be out of alignment. This misalignment can pinch the nerves and cause pain.
Removal of part, or all, of a disc.
Stabilization of two or more vertebrae by joining them with bone grafts. Instrumentation, such as metal plates, rods and screws may be used to improve the likelihood of bone fusion. You and your doctor will discuss this before surgery.
Removal of the entire lamina.
Removal of part of the lamina.