Spinal surgery has undergone a transformation since the days of routine “open surgery,” where the surgeon makes a single long incision through muscle and other healthy tissue to make the repair.
Now, minimally invasive surgery is the norm, requiring only a few incisions that don’t disturb healthy muscle tissue. This type of procedure promotes faster healing and less bleeding, pain, scarring, and infection risk compared to open surgery.
Dr. Benjamin Cohen is a leading expert on spinal fusion, a procedure that relieves pain associated with multiple conditions, including spinal stenosis and degenerative disc disease. Here, he explains how it can also help with bone spurs.
As with every condition Dr. Cohen treats, he doesn’t recommend surgery casually — only after a thorough evaluation of your condition, your pain history, and careful analysis.
A bone spur is a protrusion that develops on the edge of a bone in your joints or spine.
Degeneration caused by osteoarthritis is a common cause of bone spurs, as they can cause a narrowing of the space where your spinal cord is located. Bone spurs can lead to spinal stenosis, pinching and compressing the spine. Not only does the condition cause back and neck pain, but it also may:
Additionally, bone spurs in the facet joints of your spine can make your vertebrae grind together and become inflamed. Pain and stiffness often follow.
As the procedure’s name implies, spinal fusion is a surgery where Dr. Cohen connects two or more adjoining vertebrae permanently. Once the procedure is complete, movement between your vertebrae cannot occur, and your spine stabilizes.
Dr. Cohen applies a bone graft to your affected vertebrae to stimulate growth between your two bones. The bones grow into the graft material, gradually becoming a single bone and strengthening your spine.
The graft may be sourced from either a bone bank or a fusion cage constructed of a biocompatible substance that stimulates bone growth and doesn’t harm healthy tissue.
This minimally invasive technique requires only a few small incisions, allowing Dr. Cohen to insert a long, narrow tube with a tiny camera at one end. This camera lets him see his targeted area and work more precisely using specially designed instruments.
Healing well after spinal fusion surgery has a lot to do with good planning, not overdoing it, and understanding that recovery happens in stages over months. It’s also important to follow Dr. Cohen’s care instructions to the letter, so you don’t lose momentum.
Your graft takes about 12-18 months to solidify after your procedure, but in the beginning, you work with a physical therapist as you heal. Dr. Cohen may prescribe — and carefully monitor — pain medication to ease your discomfort in the early stages of healing.
Before surgery, cook and freeze some meals and think about the things you often use that you can place in accessible spots, since your movement will be limited after surgery.
The most important things to remember as you recover include:
The first three months after surgery are when the fusion bone graft is getting established, and movement may be limited, but as time progresses, exercise like walking helps recovery greatly.
As soon as Dr. Cohen determines that your fusion has reached completion and you have one unified bone — which is expected at about 12 months post-surgery — you can return to bending, lifting, and really any of your previously enjoyed activities.
Dr. Cohen’s aim with every patient is to eliminate pain and restore mobility.
Call our office at 516-246-5008 to schedule a consultation — we offer both in-person and telemedicine appointments — if you suspect bone spurs, or reach out to us through our website.