Surgery for back pain can reduce sex life-related pain, says research

back pain

Chronic back pain has known negative consequences for sexual function, contributing to decreased quality of life. It can be caused by degenerative spinal disease.

For patients with the disease, surgery is more effective in reducing pain that interferes with sexual activity, compared to nonsurgical treatment, reports a study in Spine.

“Sex life is a relevant consideration for the majority of patients with degenerative spinal stenosis,” write Dr. Shane Burch of University of California-San Francisco and colleagues.

“Operative treatment leads to improved sex life-related pain,” in addition to reducing pain and disability from degenerative spinal conditions.

Lower Rate of Sex Life-Related Pain after Spinal Surgery

Patients with spinal stenosis or degenerative spondylolisthesis have narrowing of or pressure on the spinal canal, causing back pain, leg pain, and other symptoms.

In response to questionnaires, about 30 percent of patients indicated that sexual function was not relevant to them.

These patients were older (average 70 versus 63 years), more likely to be female and unmarried, and more likely to have coexisting joint problems.

Of 825 patients who said that sexual function was relevant, 531 underwent some kind of surgery (spinal decompression or spinal fusion) 294 received nonsurgical treatment.

Before treatment, 55 percent of patients said they had at least some pain affecting their sex life.

Three months after back surgery, less than 20 percent of patients still had sex life-related pain. In contrast, about 40 percent of patients treated without surgery still had pain with sexual activity.

The improvement persisted through 4 years’ follow-up, and was significant for patients undergoing spinal decompression versus fusion.

The new study is the first to include a large number of patients undergoing back surgery, and the first to include a comparison group of patients treated without surgery.

Future studies will provide more complete information on how back surgery can improve sexual function and activity.

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Citation: Patrick H, et al. (2016). Sex Life and Impact of Operative Intervention on Sex Life-related Pain in Degenerative Spinal Conditions: An Analysis of the SPORT Study. 41: 1764-1771. DOI:10.1097/BRS.0000000000001851.
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