Spinal Decompression Surgery: A Treatment for Back and Neck Pain

Spinal decompression surgery is a surgical procedure that is performed to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. This procedure involves removing a portion of bone or tissue that is compressing the nerves in the spine. Surgery can be performed on the cervical (neck) or lumbar (lower back) region of the spine.

Two common types of spinal decompression surgery are laminectomy and foraminotomy.

  • laminectomy involves removing a portion of the lamina, which is the bony arch on the back of the vertebra that covers the spinal canal. This creates more space in the spinal canal, relieving pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots.
  • A foraminotomy, on the other hand, involves removing a portion of bone or tissue that is compressing a nerve as it exits the spinal canal through the neural foramen. This procedure can provide relief for patients with conditions such as spinal stenosis, herniated discs, and other degenerative spinal conditions. 

Both laminectomy and foraminotomy are safe and effective procedures that can help patients regain mobility and alleviate chronic pain caused by nerve compression in the spine. However, the type of surgery recommended for a particular patient will depend on their individual needs and the specific condition being treated.

Indications for Spinal Decompression Surgery

Surgery is typically recommended for patients who experience symptoms such as:

  • back pain
  • neck pain
  • numbness 
  • tingling 
  • weakness
  • pain that radiates from the spine to the arms or legs 

These symptoms are often caused by nerve compression due to conditions such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disease.

Preparation for Surgery

Before undergoing spinal decompression surgery, patients will need to undergo a comprehensive medical evaluation, including a physical exam, imaging tests, and blood work. Patients may also need to stop taking certain medications, such as blood thinners, before the surgery. In addition, patients will need to follow specific instructions regarding food and drink intake before the surgery.

The Procedure

Spinal decompression surgery is typically performed under general anesthesia. During the procedure, the surgeon makes an incision in the back or neck and removes a portion of bone or tissue that is compressing the nerves in the spine. In some cases, the surgeon may also remove a portion of the herniated disc or other spinal tissue. The incision is then closed using sutures or staples.

Surgical Recovery

After spinal decompression surgery, patients will need to rest and limit physical activity for a period of time, typically several weeks. Patients will also need to attend physical therapy sessions to help regain strength and mobility in the affected area. Most patients experience a significant improvement in their symptoms following spinal decompression surgery, although full recovery may take several months.

Risks and Complications

As with any surgical procedure, there are risks and potential complications associated with spinal decompression surgery.  However, serious complications are rare, and the vast majority of patients experience a successful outcome following the surgery. These may include:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Nerve or Spinal Cord Injury
  • Blood Clots
  • Adjacent Level Degeneration
  • Failed Back Syndrome
  • Recurrence of Herniated Disc

Spinal decompression surgery is a safe and effective surgical procedure that can provide significant relief for patients with back and neck pain due to nerve compression in the spine. While the procedure does carry some risks, most patients experience a successful outcome with minimal complications. If you are experiencing chronic back or neck pain or other symptoms of a spinal condition, talk to your doctor to determine if surgery may be right for you.