When you have chronic back pain, you might be willing to try everything—including surgery, to get some relief. People tend to think of a spinal fusion whenever they think of back surgery. However, spinal fusion isn't the only treatment alternative available for chronic back pain. Other less intrusive options have emerged during the past decade.

If you suffer from back pain, you shouldn't automatically believe that major back surgeries are the only way to get relief. You can contact Dr. Rappard's clinic in Los Angeles to find out what spinal fusion alternatives you can pursue to get relief for your condition.

An Overview of a Spine Fusion Surgery

Spine fusion refers to a surgical treatment that joins two or even more vertebrae together so that they recover as a single, solid bone. This surgical procedure can be used to permanently fuse two or more vertebrae, thereby reducing or eliminating the range of motion that causes pain. Fusion surgery can be done in the cervical region, lumbar region, and thoracic region.

Even if there is an approximately 80–90% chance of success with spinal fusion, there is a lot that has to be clarified. The success rates vary based on the parameters that the surgeon uses to measure success as well as what the patients consider to be a successful outcome. If the surgeon can merge two bones and the patient's symptoms improve significantly, the surgery could be considered a success. Greater success rates could also be achieved by using the right techniques and indications.

Spinal fusion surgery is typically performed for the following reasons:

  • Fractures or spinal instability brought on by tumors.
  • Spinal fusion surgery could be helpful for those with scoliosis, a disorder characterized by an abnormal curvature of the spinal column that can cause pain.
  • Spinal fusion surgery could be necessary if you have spondylosis which is a degenerative spine condition that causes slipped discs and movement or instability.
  • A fractured vertebra is a painful ailment in which the vertebra fractures, causing the patient to experience both instability and pain. The doctor may suggest a kyphoplasty or a spinal fusion for this condition.

Conditions that could be prospects for spinal fusion surgery alternatives include the following:

  • Herniated Discs.
  • Degenerative Disc Disease - discomfort caused by the disc.
  • Spinal Stenosis.
  • Radiculopathy is brought on by disc herniation or foraminal stenosis.
  • Back discomfort is caused by facet joint movement, known as axial facet pain.

What are the Most Effective Spinal Fusion Surgery Alternatives?

There are several spinal fusion surgery alternatives you can explore. Your choice of treatment should be based on the specific root of your problem. There could be several alternatives in some circumstances.

The following is a list of other interventions that can be utilized as an alternative to spinal fusion surgery.

Endoscopic Spine Surgery

For extreme cases, when less invasive methods such as stretching, exercise, taking over-the-counter prescription medications, and any of the treatments indicated below haven't been successful in eliminating back pain, surgical intervention could be the only choice left. Endoscopic spine surgery is a great spinal fusion alternative.

This alternative to spinal fusion surgery is among the most advanced forms of minimally invasive spinal surgery, and it is typically performed as an outpatient treatment.

Recovery from endoscopic spinal surgery is much faster than that from spinal fusion since the surgeon just needs to make a small incision (less than 10 mm in length) to access the affected area.

ESIs (Epidural Steroid Injections)

Epidural steroid injections, a fusion alternative, are non-surgical options to relieve your pain when your pain is brought on by spinal stenosis or herniated discs pinching your nerves. The injections can be injected into your lumbar region (lower back) to alleviate lower leg and back discomfort by lowering the inflammatory response that causes nerve compression.

ESIs are also effective on the neck region and can alleviate discomfort in the arms, upper back, shoulders, and neck. Epidural Steroid Injections are non-invasive remedies for inflammation and swelling that have a short recovery period, making them an excellent choice for treating back pain. However, they may not always be beneficial for long-term treatment, based on the underlying reason for the back pain.

Stem Cell Therapy

Another alternative to spinal fusion surgery for back pain is stem cell therapy. The unique ability of stem cells to differentiate into various body tissue cells makes them unique among other types of cells. Stem cells have the potential to differentiate into cells that heal damaged tissues, such as injured facet joints and discs.

The stem cells used in this treatment are harvested from the patient themselves. You will have bone marrow removed from your iliac crest of the hip bone, and it will be processed to the point where only stem cells are left. After being separated from the rest of the blood's components, such as plasma and RBCs, the stem cells can then be injected back into the injured area to promote tissue regeneration. This non-invasive procedure requires less than one hour to perform and has a high rate of success. It also takes little time to recover.

Artificial Disc Replacement

When a badly deteriorated disc is the source of your symptoms, your physician could recommend that you undergo endoscopic spinal surgery. If that doesn't work, then, a replacement of the disc with an artificial one is almost certainly going to be a more effective course of action than undergoing a spinal fusion. Even though replacing lumbar discs with artificial discs is preferable to fusion surgery, there are numerous risks connected with the discs deteriorating over time.

Re-operating in the same area is risky and often unsuccessful in relieving pain, and it could be costly to do so.

Non-Surgical Spinal Fusion Surgery Alternatives

The following are some non-surgical alternatives to spinal fusion.

Warm and Cold Pads

Back pain is usually remedied and treated with warm and cold cloths and pads, with cold pads, in particular, helping to alleviate the pain and treat many cases of illness and strain. A cold pack helps to numb the affected area, provide comfort, and reduce pain in the affected area while also facilitating the healing of any injured or strained muscles in the back.


A regular and consistent schedule of therapeutic massage can help with several issues of back pain and stiffness. When performed by a trained practitioner, orthopedic massage could cure or at least reduce many cases of back problems. If you're experiencing back pain, your doctor may recommend scheduling an appointment with a massage therapist. When making your appointment, be sure to describe the specifics of your issue to the massage therapist.


By releasing pressure from the injured nerve, this minimally invasive surgery carried out through a tiny insertion, lessens and alleviates pain and tension.

An Annuloplasty or IDET (Intradiscal Electrothermal Coagulation)

Injection therapy for lumbar disc herniation involves inserting a needle into the disc space, threading a catheter through it, and applying heat to the disc's outer core. Overall, this procedure aims to seal tears in the disc wall, reduce pain, cauterize and desensitize nerve terminals in those with milder forms of degenerative disc disease, and strengthen collagen fibers in the disc wall using heat.

Keep an Eye Out

When it comes to moderate back pain, some doctors and patients choose to wait and see, prescribing rest and painkillers instead of surgery. Depending on how serious the condition is, this approach has varying degrees of success.


Exercise, in general, is an alternative to fusion and can be an aid in the battle against orthopedic illnesses, even though aggressive, demanding, and incorrectly performed activities can be a contributor to back pain. Many cases of back pain can also be addressed by a routine of gentle, deliberate stretches that are done with mindfulness.

To plan and choose the ideal workout regimen to treat back pain, make sure to talk to your doctor and possibly a certified fitness trainer. Additionally, if you feel discomfort or pain throughout your workout regimen, you should stop immediately and contact your doctor as soon as possible.


A relaxing routine can do a lot to prevent back pain, which is why it's frequently a patient's preferred way of treatment. In certain circumstances, even if it involves taking a short break from preferred dance or sporting activities, some rest could work wonders for a painful back. A well-rested back has a better chance of healing quickly, and rest in general may do wonders for the nervous system and the mind in addition to the restorative effects it has on the rest of the body.

In addition, patients who are dealing with particular orthopedic and spine issues also have choices available when it relates to alternatives to fusion. These conditions can be either acute or chronic. The symptoms, causes, and other identifying features of each condition are significantly distinct from one another. Therefore, it stands to reason that there must be a diverse range of treatments and therapies available, one for each possible illness.

Negative Effects of Spinal Fusion Surgery

This type of procedure is time-consuming since the fusion process could last anywhere from 3 to 18 months.

Spinal fusion is often considered when other methods of relieving back pain have failed to provide adequate relief. When conservative treatments have failed over an extended period, drastic surgical intervention could be considered. The majority of patients with severe back pain or pain that originates in the disc region benefit most from spinal fusion surgery.

If numerous spine levels are involved in the patient's case of back pain, spinal fusion surgery isn't likely to be successful. The procedure is most likely to be effective if the patient's back pain is localized to a single spine level.

The technique could cause increased back pain if the disc that needed treatment was incorrectly diagnosed during the diagnostic phase. This could lead to a case of Failed Back Surgery Syndrome, a disorder that causes significant psychological and emotional trauma in addition to severe pain. Contrary to popular belief, surgery could be necessary to undo the impacts of Failed Back Surgery Syndrome.

If you've had a spinal fusion, you should expect your recovery time to be anywhere from 3 months to 18 months. Although a lengthy recuperation period following back surgery isn't unusual, it could be frustrating for a physically active individual who would like to return to their work, their favorite hobbies, their loved ones, and their life.

Spinal fusion can cause long-lasting alterations to the back, possibly even putting strain on the joints of the non-fused spine. Patients who smoke, are overweight, take steroids, have osteoporosis, suffer from diabetes or a related condition, have had previous spinal surgery or fusion, are malnourished, or have had a history of these disorders could not be good candidates for this procedure.

Spinal fusion is a technique that permanently stabilizes the spine, but it can have unintended consequences, such as a loss of flexibility and the development of a stiff posture that makes even basic motions challenging.

Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure. Although in context this statement would sound brutally oversimplified, it is nevertheless pertinent to this debate and it is for this precise reason that individuals look for alternatives to spinal fusion.

Regardless of the degree of invasiveness, no one appreciates the experience of having surgery. They dread the idea of actually undergoing surgery, let alone the time and effort required for preparing and recuperating from it. Considering everything, nobody wants to have surgery, which is why the idea of spinal fusion alternatives is so well-liked and often brought up in conversation.

In light of this, anyone suffering from back pain needs to know about the alternatives to spinal fusion, particularly the non-surgical options.

Find a Spinal Fusion Surgery Doctor Near Me

Do not put off seeking help for your back pain in the hopes that it will go away on its own. Schedule an appointment with Dr. George Rappard's practice in Los Angeles right away so that we can help you find relief for your back pain. Give us a call at 424-777-7463.