After months of conservative therapy, some spine patients may opt for spine surgery if their pain is uncontrolled or if they are unable to do their daily tasks, and if a surgeon can identify what is responsible for the pain.

See Conservative vs Surgical Care for Lower Back Pain

Some conditions, like spinal stenosis, respond well to minimally invasive spine surgery. What Is Spinal Stenosis?

Some surgical candidates worry that they will need a spine fusion, which is an invasive surgery requiring months of recuperation.

See Spinal Fusion Surgery Recovery: 3 Months and After

The good news is that some spine conditions can be treated with a less major surgery (meaning not as extensive and quicker healing time than a fusion), like a microdiscectomy for a lumbar herniated disc.

See How Microdiscectomy Surgery Is Performed


Reasons you may need a spinal fusion

First, let’s take a look at the types of conditions that may need to be treated with a fusion.

See Spinal Fusion

A fusion surgery stops excessive movement in the spine.
ALIF (Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion) Video

A fusion surgery is designed to stop joint motions in the spine that are generating pain. This may happen as a result of:

For many patients, spinal fusion helps them get back on the road to leading a normal, pain-free life. But the surgery is invasive and the recovery time can be up to a year long.

See Spine Fusion Risks and Complications

See Spinal Fusion Surgery Recovery: 1 to 3 Months After

Many patients who need spine surgery will find relief from less invasive surgical procedures such as microdiscectomy or a microdecompression.

Reasons you may need a lumbar microdiscectomy surgery

Sometimes nerves in the spine may be compressed or inflamed, causing referred pain to radiate down the arms or legs. This pain is called radiculopathy. This could be caused by a herniated disc, foraminal stenosis, a nerve root injury, or scar tissue from a previous operation.

See What's a Herniated Disc, Pinched Nerve, Bulging Disc...?

A microdiscectomy spine surgery, considered a less major surgery than a fusion, removes the small portion of the offending bone or disc, allowing the nerve to heal.

See Microdiscectomy (Microdecompression) Spine Surgery

The majority of patients with only radiculopathy pain (in the absence of one of the conditions mentioned above as a reason for spine fusion) improve without fusion surgery.

Microdiscectomy is often done on an outpatient basis. Typically, the patient will have no restrictions on their activity immediately following the surgery, and the success rate is 90 to 95%.

Most back patients will never need surgery. If you do need spine surgery, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will need a spine fusion.

Learn more:

Back Surgery and Neck Surgery Overview

Lumbar Spine Surgery