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Can Lumbar Back Surgery Lead To SI Joint Pain?

If you are in recovery from a lumbar spine fusion, and you still have pain, you might wonder if the pain is related to your SI joint. Or, if you haven’t had surgery, you might wonder if your pain is coming from the lumbar spine at all.

Lumbar surgery can, but does not always, lead to stress that can contribute to SI joint pain. (references: stress, prior lumbar fusion) Lumbar pain is also often confused with SI joint pain , and a misdiagnosis can lead to the wrong treatment.

If your doctor is trained and experienced in SI joint diagnosis and treatments, you are more likely to avoid a misdiagnosis. An SI joint specialist can also help you understand whether or not your lumbar surgery has led to SI joint dysfunction. If you need a referral to a local SI joint doctor, use this online directory.

Lumbar spine surgery vs. SI joint surgery

Lumbar back surgery (which can include lumbar decompression124  or lumbar fusion) is different from SI joint surgery; although the surgery takes place in a different part of the body. The lumbar region of the back is the lower spine, and surgery typically involves the spinal discs or vertebrae. The SI joints are located in the back of the pelvis, above the buttocks .

You might hear about two different types of lower back, spine, or SI joint surgery: open and minimally invasive. A minimally invasive surgery means that typically, the incision is smaller, the surgery takes less time, hospital stays are shorter, and recovery may be quicker than with open, or more invasive, surgeries. The iFuse procedure, available since 2009, is minimally invasive SI joint fusion surgery. The iFuse Implant System® is designed specifically to relieve SI joint pain.

How you know you might need lower back surgery

Regardless of whether your lower back pain is SI joint or lumbar-related, surgery is only recommended when other non-surgical therapies have not helped. Non-surgical treatments for SI joint pain might include over-the-counter medications, physical therapy, and therapeutic injections, and may be all you need to get your life back on track.

If you have tried non-surgical treatments for 6 months or more and the pain is the same or worse, it may be time to consider whether minimally invasive SI joint fusion is right for you. Ask your doctor about iFuse; if you need a second opinion, consider contacting a surgeon in your area that has been trained in SI joint treatments and iFuse procedures. This directory can help your search.

If you’re not sure whether your pain is coming from your lumbar spine or the SI joint, take this pain quiz to help determine what your symptoms might be telling you.

Minimally invasive SI joint surgery after lumbar spine surgery

If you’ve already had a lower back surgery , and you’re still in pain or have new onset pain, you might wonder if another surgery will help at all. Any surgery is a serious decision, and you h need to weigh the pros and cons.

Research shows that “Patients with SI joint pain, regardless of prior lumbar spine fusion history, show significant improvement in pain after minimally invasive SI joint fusion." (reference: lumbar spinal fusion)  A discussion with a qualified healthcare professional can help you create a personalized care plan.

SI joint fusion and lumbar spinal fusion recovery

After any surgery, minimally invasive or open, recovery times vary based on age, physical health status, and other factors. How long will it take for you to recover from a lower lumbar surgery or SI joint fusion? Talk to your doctor about the type of surgery you are getting, ask for clinical research on procedural outcomes, and factor in your own specific situation.

Here’s what you can expect from the iFuse procedure, if this is what your doctor recommends.


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