Do you suffer from back pain? Chances you’ve answered yes, and guess what? You are not alone. Back pain is much more common than you think. In fact, according to nearly 65 million Americans report a recent episode of back pain.  Some 16 million adults, which equates to 8 percent of all adults continue to experience persistent or chronic back pain which causes a limitation in everyday activities. And on top of that back pain is the sixth most costly condition in the United States due to the prolonged treatment it requires.

Back pain can stem from many different conditions including slipped discs, spondylolisthesis, degenerative disc disease or even herniated discs among others. Not only is it painful, but it can be debilitating for both your personal and professional life; work might be missed, activities stop happening, and suddenly it may even be hard to walk around. This is no way to live and the next step is to explore ways to get your life back.

Of course, there are non-surgical treatments such as physical therapy, Robotic Laser Therapy, medications, and spinal injections which you can (and should) try first. But once you’ve exhausted all options, or feel it’s time to move on, there are minimally invasive surgical options that can give you relief.    

Before you even start to think about what to do next, take a deep breath. With all the options out there, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed on which would be best, the actual procedure, recovery and after care. Depending on your condition one of the most common procedures that can help alleviate back pain is a minimally invasive Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF), a spinal fusion back surgery. This probably sounds intimidating, and even scary, after all an operation on your spine isn’t the most comfortable of thoughts.

Once you and your medical provider have decided on TLIF, you’ll want to find either a reputable surgeon. Most operations take place either in a hospital or an outpatient surgical center.

You’re most likely wondering what exactly will be happening to you as you’re on an operating table. Don’t worry you’ll be under anesthesia, so chances are you will not feel, hear or see a thing. Without getting too clinical, here is a brief overview.

The fusion that is performed with minimally invasive techniques will lock together two or more bones which will stop the pain, relieve pinched nerves and even help correct scoliosis. Once you are asleep you will be placed on your stomach with support from pillows on your chest and sides. Everything will be cleansed and prepped. The surgeon will then make small 1-2-inch incisions over the specific disc level that is causing discomfort. Your back muscles will be separated to reach the spine to begin removing the joint.

When the joint is removed this allows the spinal canal to open and now exposes the sac that protects your nerves. Bone spurs and ligaments are carefully removed to reach the nerves. The nerve is retracted but your bone graft cage is still in place. When the disc space is open there is work done in the background with x-rays, and bone graft material being prepared. When the material is ready, and a good fit has been made it will then be inserted into the disc space. Screws are placed above and below the disc space that was operated on.

Depending on your condition this procedure might vary from this overview given. Your surgeon can (and should) provide more detail and clinical information. The procedure can take about one to two hours and everyone’s experience is different. Based on the type of fusion you require you can expect either one or even a couple days there before you are discharged.

The goals of a TLIF are to decompress (remove the pressure from) the spinal cord and/or nerves, re-stabilize the spine, and prevent further movement and degeneration at the joints in question. Studies indicate that the patient’s pain is improved 60% to 70% after a minimally invasive TLIF spinal fusion surgery and approximately 80% of patients undergoing minimally invasive TLIF spinal fusion surgery are satisfied with the surgical result.

You might be a candidate for minimally invasive TLIF if you suffer from degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, mild to moderate scoliosis, or have symptoms that have not improved with any other treatments. There are limitations that could prevent you from having this done such as severe osteoporosis, any prior fusion at that level, or any problems that would prevent bone fusion.

While complications are not common, there is no guarantee that spinal fusion will be completely successful. Minimally invasive TLIF usually results in solid bone fusion with good pain improvement. Patients should review additional details with their surgeon so that all questions and concerns are addressed.

The most important part is do your research, learn as much as you can about this surgery, and make sure you are comfortable with the procedure as well as the Dr. and team that you will be working with. It’s perfectly normal and encouraged to come armed with questions, in fact it’s encouraged. You’ll want to address the timeline both for your minimally invasive TLIF surgery and what will follow afterwards.

CNY Spine and Brain gives an overview of this procedure (and many others) further on our website at: After you read through, pop on over to our team page and read about the team that will be working with you through this whole process.

Does this sound like something you might be thinking about, but just aren’t convinced? At CNY Brain & Spine we don’t want you to live in pain and want to work with you to ease your pain. If you do decide to move forward with TLIF, our spine surgeons at Central New York Brain and Spine Neurosurgery specialize in performing this procedure. We are focused on finding the best possible solution to the issue or pain you are experiencing.

For more information or to schedule a consult to discuss contact CNY Brain and Spine at 315-792-7629.