Spinal Decompression

Written By Dr. Michael Polson

On November 21, 2020

Decompression is a surgical procedure that is performed to open up the canals were through the spinal cord and nerves pass, creating extra space for them to move more freely than before. Decompression eases the pain caused by any pinched nerves. This is caused by the narrowing/stenosis of the spinal and nerve root canals causing chronic pain, numbness, and muscle weakness in the arms and/or legs. Surgery is recommended if the symptoms haven’t improved and gotten worse.

What is Spinal Decompression

Spinal stenosis (narrowing) is often caused by age-related changes like arthritis, enlarged joints, bulging discs, bone spurs, and thickened ligaments. 

Spinal decompression is something that can be performed anywhere on the spine from the cervical (neck) to the lumbar (lower back). Spinal Decompression surgery is performed through an incision in the back muscles. Removing the lamina and thickened ligament gives extra space for the nerves and allows for the eradication of osteophytes also known as bone spurs. Depending on the extent of the narrowing, one vertebra or more may be involved.

There are several types of common spinal decompression surgery procedures. They are Laminectomy, Laminotomy, Foraminotomy, Laminaplasty, Discectomy.

In some cases, a spinal fusion may have to be done at the same time to assist with stabilizing certain sections of the spine that is treated with laminectomy. Fusion uses a mix of bone grafts, screws, and rods to connect two individual vertebrae together into one new piece of bone. Fusing the joint prevents the spinal stenosis from recurring and can help eliminate pain from an unstable spine.

Who is a candidate?

You may be considered a candidate for decompression if you have any of the following:

  • significant pain, weakness, or numbness in your leg or foot
  • leg pain is worse than the back pain is.
  • not improving with physical therapy or medication
  • difficulty walking or standing that affects any part of your life
  • diagnostic tests (MRICTmyelogram) that show the narrowing in the central canal or lateral recess.

The surgical decision

Spinal decompression surgery for spinal stenosis is elective, except in the very rarest of instances with cauda equina syndrome or rapidly progressing neurologic loss. Your doctor may recommend other treatment options, but the only person that can decide whether surgery is right for you is you. Make sure to look at all possible risks and what the benefits are before making any sort of decision. Spinal decompression does not cure spinal stenosis nor does it eliminate arthritis. It only relieves some of the current symptoms. Unfortunately, some or all the symptoms may recur as the deteriorating aging process that produces stenosis continues forward.

If you have any questions or concerns please consult with your current chiropractic center or doctor to make sure this is something that is right for your condition. We don’t know your current situation and condition so consulting with someone that does is the right thing to do.

This is Dr. Polson signing out.

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