If you've been suffering from degenerative disc disease or a severely herniated disc, then your doctor may recommend a procedure called spinal fusion surgery. The idea of having someone operate on your spine — one of your most important and sensitive body parts — may be a little worrisome at first. But the more you learn about this procedure, the more comfortable you're likely to become. Review the following questions and answers about spinal fusion surgery, and start moving towards that comfort.

What actually happens during this surgery?

Essentially, your surgeon will fuse two of your vertebrae together. The two vertebrae that are fused are those on either side of the damaged or degenerative disc. The fusion of these two vertebrae stops the motion between them, which puts an end to the friction and pressure that cause you pain and other symptoms.

Will the surgery perpetuate damage elsewhere in your spine?

This is a common concern among patients. They worry that if their spine is fused in one place, the rest of the spine will then experience more wear and tear, leading to additional spine problems down the road. The truth is, this is possible. Fusing your spine does cause other parts of your spine to flex a little more in compensation. This does not usually cause bigger spinal problems, but there is a possibility of this result. However, most patients figure it's worth taking this small risk in order to alleviate the severe pain they're currently facing.

Can the surgery be performed in a minimally invasive way?

Minimally invasive surgeries, performed through small incisions, are becoming more common. Some spinal fusion surgeries can absolutely be done in this way, but not all of them. Your doctor can assess your condition and let you know if you're a candidate for minimally invasive surgery. If you are a candidate, this is definitely the recommended approach.

How long does recovery take?

Everyone recovers at a different pace, but most people are fully healed, as in they are no longer dealing with post-surgical pain, between 3 and 6 months after treatment. Most patients can return to work about 4 to 6 weeks after surgery as long as their job is not physically demanding.

Spinal fusion surgery does come with a significant recovery period, but it is often your best chance at living a pain-free life after a serious injury to or degeneration of an intervertebral disc. Speak with a doctor for more information about spine surgery