Spinal Implants come in various forms used in some degree in spinal surgery. These can resemble supportive structures in the spine, used in cases of spinal fusion, to correct deformities, or used in an attempt to strengthen and stabilise the spine. Spinal Cord Stimulators are also a type of implant that can send small electrical impulses to the spinal cord. Spinal surgery is often recommended in chronic cases, where a patient has been suffering with their back pain for a number of months or years, or in the case of an emergency surgery to fix an injury that has been caused by a sudden trauma or accident. 

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What are Spinal Cord Stimulators?

Although whether or not a patient should go ahead with spinal implants is not our field of expertise, there are a number of alternatives a patient can try before resorting to spinal surgery, as it can be a permanent change in a delicate area that carries signals from everywhere in the body, to the brain. We do also see the consequences of having spinal implants, as we have seen them in patients who are still consistently experiencing pain in their back or neck despite having surgery. Ultimately, there can be many reasons why a patient can be offered surgery for their spine, and although we do believe it’s worth trying everything before having surgery, we understand in some cases this just is not possible – for example in deformities that have occurred since childhood, or emergency surgeries. 

Firstly, we are often asked about Spinal Cord Stimulators as a type of implant. Although their use today is much less common than it used to be, they may still be recommended in some cases. Used in treating chronic pain since the late-sixties, they essentially use a battery powered device implanted near the buttocks or abdomen, transmitting signals directly to an electrode over the spinal cord to help block pain signals travelling to the brain. The main piece of advice we would give if this has been recommended to you, is to really understand where your pain is coming from, and how your spine is actually positioned. These factors will impact the outcome and should influence what kind of treatment you look into, as you’re quite limited once the implant has been done. There are certain circumstances where this kind of implant is used in the cases of traumas, such as fractures, which may work effectively. But we have certainly encountered patients who have had the device implanted whose spinal positioning could have been improved or fixed with the right kind of treatment. 

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Treating Structural Spinal Problems

Structural spinal issues can be dealt with to a certain extent by offering a patient physiotherapy, or giving them the right kind of exercises, which can provide them with greater stability and support the core muscles. The biggest mistake that can be made in recommending this type of implant can be the way it is described or sold to the patient, especially if there has been no attempt to advise the patient or give a balanced opinion, in many cases the patient is told this will make all their pain go away. This stance should not be, and is not intended to be, taken that we are against their use as in many circumstances they are an effective form of pain relief for a patient. In order to absolutely minimise your disk of having any negative outcomes after the surgery, if a Spinal Cord Stimulator has been recommended for you it may be best to make sure you’re receiving correct and appropriate advice, and you understand exactly what is wrong with your spine before proceeding. 

Other Forms of Spinal Implants

Other than Spinal Cord Stimulators, there are a wide range of different forms of spinal implants that serve various functions. Most other types of implant serve to fuse the spine in some way depending on the condition of the patient. These generally either resemble cages, plates or rods. Cages are implants that are placed between two vertebrae, usually to either take the place of a damaged spinal disc or to recoup lost disc height in a bid to relieve pressure on nerve roots that can cause severe pain. Plates are implants used to support usually the cervical spine, as they are flexible. These are secured to the vertebrae with screws. Rods are stronger and longer, generally used to change the alignment of the spine, attached to the vertebrae with screws – these are often used in surgeries to correct a scoliosis.

While surgery can be the only option in some cases, such as where the spine has degenerated significantly or the spinal condition has been there since birth or childhood, in other cases it can be worth trying all options available to you before having surgery. Having surgery can essentially change the way that your spine and your body functions, especially if you’ve been in pain for a long time and developed a certain way of walking, sitting or performing any activities in general, it can mean that you end up instead placing more pressure on other areas of the spine which could then become a fresh injury. We often see cases of patients who have previously had surgery, who find that they may then need further surgery in the future due to the degeneration that may have occurred in other areas of the spine.

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We cannot overestimate the importance of knowing exactly what the problem with your spine is, before opting to have surgery. Although surgery can be a necessity in some cases, it’s vital you understand the issue with your spine and why surgery is being recommended. Seeking a second opinion in some cases may be necessary to help you properly understand the positioning and condition of the spine. If you’re based in the London area and surgery has been recommended to you, we can offer a second opinion on what we think can be done. Our examination process features a consultation, orthopaedic testing followed by x-ray imaging if clinically relevant. If you have x-rays we also provide an independent radiology report as well as a biomechanical report on the positioning and angles of your spinal curves. On top of this, treatment can be provided on the first session and is included in our consultation fee, so you can start the road to recovery from day one. 

If you’d like to book in for a consultation, or enquire what can be done for your condition, call the clinic and speak to one of our expert team members on 0203 947 3222 or email us at info@themayfairclinic.com. 

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