The Potential Dangers of a Back Fusion 

spine skeleton

If your doctor has recommended you undergo a spinal fusion surgery, think carefully. It’s vital that you understand what’s involved in the procedure before you decide to proceed. While most doctors mean well and want the best possible health outcome for you, following their recommendation may not be the best option in your situation. It might be worth getting another opinion from a Cincinnati integrative medical provider.

Why Would a Patient Get a Spinal Fusion?

Patients commonly undergo a spinal fusion to treat degenerative disc disease. The procedure is also used for a variety of back problems, including stenosis, scoliosis, tumors, and trauma. The procedure involves fusing two or more vertebrae to reduce motion that causes pain.

Understand that a spinal fusion is not a complete cure-all for your back problem or pain. The primary purpose of a fusion is to minimize your pain by reducing the levels of your spinal mobility. Unfortunately, some patients are disappointed to find out after the surgery that they’ve sacrificed some of their movement for minimally reduced pain.

For a spinal fusion, a patient goes under general anesthesia for the entire surgery. The surgeon makes an incision in the patient’s front, back, or side, depending on the nature and location of the problem. The procedure involves decompressing the spine and placing a bone graft. The surgeon may use hardware, including plates, screws, and rods. Complete recovery after the operation typically takes three to twelve months.

The Risks and Drawbacks of a Back Fusion

A procedure of this nature is not without potential complications. As with any major invasive surgery, you’ll have the standard risks involved with general anesthesia. In the short term, patients are susceptible to possible bleeding, infection, and permanent nerve damage.

In up to 40% of surgeries, the bone graft doesn’t heal completely and requires additional surgery, which comes with additional risks. Pain after surgery is normal, but in about a third of cases, patients experience chronic pain that won’t go away.

Other drawbacks of spinal fusion include increased disc degeneration on nearby vertebrae and reduced range of motion. Because the surgery limits your mobility range, other areas of your spine receive more stress. Over the long term, this can result in severe degeneration and the need for more surgery.

Finally, there’s the financial drawback to consider. Depending on the type of surgery a physician recommends, the cost of a spinal fusion can exceed $100,000, not to mention your time off work or in physical therapy afterwards.

For many patients, the risks make spinal fusion a poor long-term option for back problems. This is of particular concern when a younger adult or child opts for a fusion.

Non-Surgical Alternatives to Spinal Fusion in the Cincinnati Area

The good news is that there are options other than spinal fusion. According to Consumer Reports, spinal fusion is often necessary after an accident or because of a tumor causing the spine to collapse. However, the procedure is not typically recommended for lower back pain due to arthritis or age-related wear on the discs.

Some patients who decline surgery and opt for alternatives might end up satisfied with their decision and report a healthier, more pain-free life afterward. There are many natural alternatives to back surgery available to patients experiencing pain. The most common and effective ones include the following:

Nutritional Therapy

Providing important nutrients to our body through diet and supplementation can halt and even reverse disc degeneration. If you’re considering this option, you’ll need to reevaluate your dietary choices and look for ways to improve your food intake. Supplementation is also critical. Important nutrients for back pain include:

  • Glucosamine
  • Chondroitin
  • Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
  • Collagen
  • Silica
  • Boron

Using herbal remedies may also help with pain management. Many patients take turmeric, devil’s claw, and CBD oil for pain.

Physical Treatments

Physical treatment options for back pain include massage therapy, chiropractic adjustments, and acupuncture. You might also incorporate more physical activity like stretching or yoga.


Prolotherapy treatment involves injecting an irritant into the injury site to help promote the healing process. Research on the use of prolotherapy has shown it to be beneficial in the case of joint degeneration and lower back pain.

Is a Spinal Fusion Worth It?

Spinal fusions involve major surgery with certain risks. If you’re looking for a way to treat your chronic back pain, it’s important to weigh those risks when deciding on your options.

If your doctor is telling you that back surgery is your only option, you may want to consider a second opinion. At Blatman Health and Wellness Center, we treat many patients for back pain. If possible, we want to help you avoid a costly operation that is difficult to reverse. It’s worth the time and effort to get informed about all your options, especially if there are natural alternatives close to home that don’t come with the risks of back surgery.

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