Degenerative disc disease is a normal part of aging. As you get older, the cushions between your spine wear out and break apart, which can cause severe pain. Every person is different, so some people are more prone to disc degeneration than others and might develop symptoms at a younger age. 

If you have severe disc degeneration in your lower back (lumbar region), your surgeon might recommend an off-label 3-level disc replacement. This occurs when they remove three damaged spinal discs at once and replace them with artificial models. This is seen as a better alternative to scheduling three separate operations – all of which require their own recovery periods. 

There are several benefits of undergoing a 3-level lumbar disc replacement. Learn more about this procedure and why it is recommended to so many patients with severe lower back pain.


Benefits of 3-Level Lumbar Disc Replacement

If your surgeon thinks you are a candidate for 3-level lumbar disc replacement, they will review some of the potential benefits of this operation. Medical science continues to advance in the modern technology era, and new procedures allow more patients to live with reduced pain levels and increased mobility than ever before. Here are three reasons to consider a 3-level lumbar disc replacement. 

Comprehensive Pain Relief

If three spinal discs are worn out, broken, or pushed out of place, then you have three key sources of pain in your lower back. You might not be able to identify the pain caused by one disc compared to another, but all three degenerated discs are threatening your comfort and potentially hitting your nerve canal. 

A 3-level lumbar disc replacement addresses all three issues at once, which can reduce your overall pain levels. If you only opt for a single-level replacement, the other two discs could continue to cause pain in your back and lessen your mobility. Your surgeon will address as many sources of your lower back pain as they can with the 3-level operation. 

Enhances Range of Motion

Artificial disc replacement is often recommended instead of spinal fusion because it restores your mobility. Fusion locks your vertebrae together so it is harder to bend, twist, and move comfortably. With a 3-level replacement operation, your doctor removes the broken discs and replaces them with long-lasting artificial models. These three discs act just like the ones your body creates – without the risk of breaking or wearing out. Replacing all three of the broken discs at once allows for greater spinal balance, so your vertebrae are aligned in a natural, comfortable way. 

Improves Quality of Life After Surgery

Three-level lumbar disc replacement is meant to be a comprehensive operation to restore your mobility, reduce your pain, and thoroughly address your back problems. This is not a temporary fix or stop-gap measure for your current pain levels. By choosing this operation, you increase your chances of living a pain-free life while reducing the risk that your lower back pain will get worse in the future. 

Not only will it make you feel better physically, but you can also enjoy good mental health from the peace of mind that comes with knowing your back problems are addressed and repaired. 


What makes a 3-Level Lumbar Disc Replacement Unique?

There are several factors that make this operation unique and valuable to patients. The main benefit is that your doctor can address three separate discs at once, significantly reducing your pain levels and improving your spinal health. Every other aspect of the operation, from the incision to the recovery time, remains the same. 

Patients can still return home on the same day of the operation and do not need to check in to the hospital. The entire process takes place at the spinal center, which creates a more comfortable setting for both patients and the family members who are caring for them. The incision is small, which reduces your risk of infection, and is only slightly larger for a 3-level operation compared to a single-level replacement. During the procedure, your doctor will use tiny cameras and video feeds to visualize your spine while they repair it. 

Because the 3-level lumbar disc replacement procedure is considered just as safe as a single-level or two-level operation, many doctors believe it is better to choose this option. Patients only need to go through the stress of surgery one time and can immediately move forward with the recovery process.  In our experience, 3-level lumbar disc replacement does better than 2-level lumbar disc replacement which does better than the one level. This is information that has not been published yet. Dr. Lanman has also had an off-label 3-level lumbar disc replacement in 2008 and has been pain free since.  


How can I maintain the benefits of 3-level lumbar disc replacement in the long term?

After your 3-level lumbar disc replacement, your surgeon will walk you through the recovery process and the long-term care of your back. Once you successfully recover over the course of three months, you can work on building healthy habits that will protect your spine for several years. The good news is that many of these habits will benefit other parts of your body and overall health as well. 

  • Meet with a physical therapist. Your PT will give you a list of exercises to complete regularly that can help you maintain – and regain – mobility. 
  • Build your back strength. Work with a fitness professional to learn back and leg exercises that build up your muscles. These muscles can support your spine. 
  • Follow safe lifting practices. Do not lift excessively heavy items, especially without support. Follow your doctor’s instructions for how much you can lift. 
  • Adjust your office chair and driver’s seat. Make sure you practice good posture when sitting throughout the day or driving. Consider replacing old and worn-out chairs with ergonomic models. 
  • Talk to your doctor if the pain returns. Don’t let lower back pain creep up on you. Alert your doctor if your pain comes back or never fully goes away. 

Additionally, other lifestyle improvements can help you maintain the benefits of your 3-level disc replacement in the long run. Try to maintain a healthy weight so you don’t put extra pressure on your spine. Stop smoking or vaping, which can affect your blood flow. Maintaining good health can support your spine and improve how you feel in multiple ways. 


Talk to Your Doctor About Multi-Level Disc Replacement

If you have multiple broken or worn-out discs, talk to your doctor about your disc replacement options. An experienced spinal surgeon should feel comfortable with a one-level, two-level, or three-level disc replacement if it means addressing all of your back pain at one time. They can discuss whether you are a candidate for disc replacement surgery and what you can expect from the operation. 

Know that there are multiple treatment options to address your back pain. Your doctor might want to try some less invasive options before recommending surgery. The most important thing right now is that you start your journey to good spinal health. The sooner you begin, the sooner medical professionals can intervene to address your pain. 

If you are ready to take the first step to receive help with your lower back pain, request a consultation at the Advanced Disc Replacement Spinal Restoration Center. You don’t have to be ready for surgery right away. Instead, meet with our expert spinal surgeons and feel heard. 


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the typical recovery time after a 3-level lumbar disc replacement surgery?

Every patient is different, but you can expect your full recovery time for lumbar disc replacement to take around three months. During the first week, you will need to care for the incision to prevent infection and should only walk around a little each day. With each passing week, you will recover a little more. Your doctor will usually approve you to return to work and resume lifting items a month after the operation.  

Is 3-level lumbar disc replacement suitable for everyone with severe disc degeneration?

Not every patient is a candidate for 3-level lumbar disc replacement. Your doctor wants to make sure you are in good physical health to withstand the operation and the recovery process. They will evaluate your age, weight, medical conditions, and lifestyle choices (like smoking habits) before approving you for surgery. You may need to stop taking certain medications or change your lifestyle before you are approved for this operation. 

Is 3-level lumbar disc replacement more complex than single-level or 2-level procedures?

A 3-level replacement is more complex than a single-level or 2-level procedure. However, it makes sense to complete this operation once instead of scheduling three single-level replacements. Your doctor only needs to make one incision and repair your spine one time. Experienced spinal surgeons are also able to handle the complexity of replacing three discs in one operation. 

Are there age restrictions for 3-level lumbar disc replacement?

Older patients are considered riskier to operate on, which is why many surgeons will not perform a 3-level lumbar disc replacement on patients who are older than 60. If you live with severe lower back pain and are above the age of 60, you should still talk to a doctor about your options. Depending on your health, you might still be a candidate for disc replacement, or your doctor could recommend other treatment options to reduce your pain levels.


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