While back pain can be debilitating and distressing, there are a number of treatment options available. As the largest private hospital group in the UK, BMI Healthcare are used to providing a range of options and treatments for back pain, read there article below and find out what you can do.


Each year, 1 in 3 people develop back pain(1).  In most instances, people experience moderate pain in the lower back which can be managed with over-the-counter painkillers. Lower back pain is extremely common, affecting about 4 in 5 people at some point in their life, usually between the ages of 30 and 60. It can last days, weeks or even months. When pain continues for over three months, it becomes known as chronic back pain.

Back pain – especially chronic back pain – can affect people’s mood, sleep, work and quality of life. While it’s often difficult to identify the exact cause of back pain, it’s usually related to strained muscles, tendons or ligaments, or other structural damage.



Surgical and non-surgical treatment

The use of surgery to treat back pain is quite rare; there are a number of non-surgical treatment options available, and spinal surgery will usually only be offered as a last resort if these treatments prove ineffective.

Indeed, unless you have a condition that specifically requires surgical intervention, doctors are likely to recommend painkillers, psychological therapies, exercise and physiotherapy, acupuncture or pain management before they opt for surgery. The most common conditions corrected by spinal surgery include prolapsed discs, which cause nerve symptoms in the neck and back, along with chronic neck and back pain.

Types of spinal surgery

However, if surgery is required, there are several types of intervention to consider. Some interventions are intended to relieve back pain caused by wear and tear, while others target limb pain – for example, sciatica in the leg caused by nerve pressure in the spine.

Your GP will help to determine whether or not you require back surgery. If a disc in your back has become damaged and is putting pressure on the surrounding nerves – sometimes referred to as ‘a slipped disc’ – you could be offered a discectomy. This procedure involves removing the whole or part of one of the discs between your vertebrae.

For a condition known as spinal stenosis, which causes the space inside your spine to narrow, you may undergo a laminectomy. This involves removing a small part of the bone called the lamina at the back of your vertebra.

Spinal fusion, meanwhile, is a procedure to join two or more vertebrae together using bone grafts, rods and screws in order to strengthen and stabilise the spine and prevent pain caused by movement. A spinal fusion may be recommended if you have a condition such as spondylolisthesis, whereby one of your vertebrae slips out of place, or if you suffer from severe degenerative disc disease.

Damage to vertebrae can also be repaired using a procedure known as vertebroplasty, which involves injecting a bone-cement into the vertebra. This procedure is often used to treat compression fractures caused by trauma or osteoporosis(2).

Be prepared

The back is a complex structure made up of bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints and nerves. The spine supports the back and is made up of 24 separate vertebrae; it also encases the spinal cord, which carries nerves from the brain to the rest of the body.

Surgical intervention in such a crucial part of the body is no small undertaking and not a decision that should be taken lightly. If it’s recommended that spinal surgery is the best course of action available to you, you must make all necessary preparations in advance of your operation.

While most people can walk after back surgery, in the first days after an operation simple, everyday tasks such as lifting, driving, washing, cleaning or dressing may be painful and problematic. You may want to ask a friend or family member to help you during this time. You’ll certainly need someone to pick you up from the hospital.

If you smoke, you may be asked to stop before your operation, as smoking increases the risk of chest and wound infection, which hampers the recovery process. In the hours before the operation, you’ll most likely be asked not to eat or drink as most back surgery involves a general anaesthetic. In addition, during your time in hospital you’ll probably be asked to wear compression stockings to help prevent blood clots forming in your legs.

A personal choice

Ultimately, the final decision to proceed with spinal surgery lies with you and you alone. Your doctor and surgeon will discuss the options with you, but if you decide not to go through with surgery then they will respect your wishes.

Furthermore, pain is personal and subjective, and the way in which it is treated is down to the preferences of the individual involved. Back pain can become debilitating and severely impact your quality of life; some people opt for surgery, while others choose to manage their pain through physiotherapy and alternative therapies, such as acupuncture.

Whatever route you select, it’s vital to ensure your treatment pathways not only give you a chance to live a life free of pain and discomfort, but that they are appropriate for you and that you are happy with the choices you make.

To find out more and discuss your options with BMI Healthcare please get in touch and make an enquiry.

(1) http://www.bupa.co.uk/health-information/directory/b/back-pain

(2) http://www.bupa.co.uk/health-information/directory/b/back-surgery


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