Lumbar Disc Surgery – Men Vs. Women

Category: Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: August 18, 2016


Lumbar Disc Surgery - Men Vs. Women

Lumbar disc surgery is performed when a damaged disc is causing pain in the spinal column. Oftentimes this is the result of a herniated disc, but other issues can also lead to the need for lumbar disc removal.

Males more often undergo lumbar disc surgery than females, and that may be because males are more likely to work physically demanding careers that put excess strain on the spinal discs. Plenty of females undergo the operation as well, so researchers decided to explore if surgical outcomes differed based on gender. According to researchers, women oftentimes had a rougher go after lumbar disc surgery than men.

Lumbar Surgery Study

For their study, researchers examined more than 11,200 patients on the Swedish National Spine Register who underwent a lumbar disc operation between 2000 and 2010. After looking at postoperative outcomes, researchers concluded:

  • Women were more likely to report higher consumption of analgesic, they reported more impairment when walking, higher levels of spine and leg pain, more disability and a more inferior quality of life prior to surgery than men.
  • Even though improvement between men and women after surgery was similar, females still reported more analgesic consumption, impaired walking distance, higher levels of back and leg pain, more disability and an inferior quality of life compared to men one year after surgery.

These findings led researchers to conclude that the one-year outcomes of lumbar disc surgery are inferior for women compared to men.


The team of researchers couldn’t draw any definitive conclusions as to why women generally had slightly worse surgical outcomes after disc surgery than men, but they posed a couple of theories. First, they believed men may be more likely to seek out medical advice for spine pain, especially if it is the result of physical activity, and thus the damage isn’t as great as it is for women when they finally go under the knife. Another theory suggests that women are more reluctant to undergo spine surgery, and that surgeons that work on women are generally working on more damaged discs. Researchers want to conduct follow up studies to test these and other factors to better understand why they received the results that they did.

Regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman, if you’re dealing with acute or chronic disc pain, do yourself a favor and have it examined by a spine specialist. They’ll be able to look at your spine and develop a treatment plan that can help you strengthen your spine and avoid surgery. Additionally, if surgery is unavoidable, it’s clear that you’ll experience better surgical outcomes if you get the surgery sooner rather than later. If this blog hits home for you, consider giving our office a call today.

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