Spinal decompression

What is spinal decompression?

Spinal decompression is a treatment which helps to release spinal stenosis, a condition where nerves in the spinal canal (the channel running down the inside of the spine) start to narrow, leading to crowded nerves and nerve damage. Spinal Stenosis can lead to aching, heaviness and pain in the legs, as the nerves affected in the back lead down into the legs.

Often, through aging, the spinal canal narrows due to discs in the back eroding and collapsing, causing the nerves to push together. Spinal decompression works by removing bone, disc and ligament in order to release the pressure on the nerves by making more space. Spinal decompression surgery should also prevent further deterioration of the condition by stabilising the area around the spine. It should be noted that permanent nerve damage may have occurred, meaning that symptoms may not completely subside, although there should be a noticeable improvement.

What does spinal decompression surgery involve?

Spinal decompression surgery is carried out using a combination of three main techniques, depending on the situation: 

  • A laminectomy may be used, which involves a section of vertebrae in the spine being removed to release pressure on the nerves.
    Damaged discs may also be removed, called a discectomy.

Spinal fusion may also be required, where vertebrae are fused together in order to prevent a worsening of the condition.

Spinal decompression surgery recovery time

The state of the condition before the operation and how much surgery was involved will determine the recovery period, although typically you may leave hospital from anywhere from two to four days. After leaving hospital, you will need to rest, and should avoid strenuous activity and possibly work for up to six weeks.

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