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Minimally invasive spine surgery provides solution to back pain

Experiencing back pain?

You are not alone. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, lower back pain is one of the most common complaints among Americans, second only to headaches. In addition, back pain is the leading cause of disability in Americans under 45 years old.

“Most adults suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. Fortunately, most causes of back pain are self-limiting and will not require surgery,” explained Kamal Woods, MD, medical director of neuroscience for Kettering Health Network.

When back pain can’t be self-treated

Common causes of back pain include the normal wear and tear that comes with aging, poor posture, improper lifting mechanics, stressful living, loss of strength and flexibility and excessive weight. Thankfully, conservative treatments like rest, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen, and ice or heat are highly effective in treating back pain caused by these factors.

“If the pain persists for more than three months, then it may be time to seek medical attention,” advised Dr. Woods.

Other red flags that signal need for urgent medical evaluation are trauma; history of cancer; bowel or bladder problems; numbness and tingling in the extremities; weakness; and gait imbalance. Some conditions that frequently require surgery are spinal stenosis, herniated disc, spondylolisthesis and scoliosis.

Major advances in spine surgery
In the past, spine surgery was perceived as the one thing that no one wanted to have. For older patients, spine surgery often wasn’t even an option.

“Patients often remained fairly immobilized for several weeks to months during the recovery,” said Dr. Woods. “They would become frustrated with the slow recovery or apparent lack of improvement they experienced post-surgery.”

However, thanks to recent advances in the field of spinal surgery, those suffering from back pain have the option for minimally invasive spine surgery without having to travel outside of the Dayton area to get it.

Minimally invasive spine surgery

Dr. Woods has been actively involved in the research of minimally invasive procedures and their many advantages over traditional spine surgery.

“Minimally invasive spine surgery has dramatically changed what spine surgery can offer patients with back problems,” said Dr. Woods. “Many patients now can be treated through a less-than-one-inch incision and without hospital admission. Older and sicker patients also can be treated, since minimally invasive surgery is less stressful on the body and the recovery is faster.”

Among the many minimally invasive procedures now available to Kettering Health Network patients are:

  • Lumbar laminectomies and microdiscectomies, which can be done through a small incision as an outpatient procedure
  • Oblique lateral interbody fusion (OLIF), a new technique for lumbar spine fusion aimed at faster return to work and normal function
  • Cervical disc replacement/arthroplasty, an alternative to cervical fusion which maintains normal motion and preserves adjacent discs


The many advantages of minimally invasive surgical procedures include:

  • Less down time
  • Shorter hospital stays
  • Less bleeding
  • Less disruption of adjacent structures
  • Less infection
  • Can possibly be done as an outpatient

How to know if you’re a candidate

“If patients are able to tolerate anesthesia safely, then minimally invasive spine surgery may be an option,” said Dr. Woods. “If someone is unsure, I recommend scheduling a consultation with a spine surgeon to see if they may be a good candidate.”

Click here for more information on minimally invasive spinal procedures offered at Kettering Health Network facilities