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Spinal Decompression Surgery


Spinal decompression surgery is one line of treatment for those experiencing cervical or lumbar radiculopathy. You may also hear these conditions referred to as radiating pain, a pinched nerve, or radicular pain. This can happen as a result of nerve irritation or compression around the spine area. Because nerves can go from the spine to other areas, you may experience pain going from one place to another (i.e. pain going from the neck down to the hand or pain going from the low back down the leg).

Typically, conservative treatments are recommended first and surgery may be recommended if those treatments don’t provide improvements in your pain or function. In other cases, surgery may be indicated based on the severity or cause of the radiculopathy.

It’s important to understand some of the treatment options available to you if you are
experiencing radiculopathy, so that you can make an informed and collaborative decision with your healthcare team about what is right for you.

What is Spinal Decompression Surgery?

There are different surgical approaches that may be considered depending on a number of
factors. If surgery is recommended, your surgeon may discuss decompression surgery with you.

Decompression surgery is meant to decrease pain by relieving the compression that is causing irritation to your nerve. This can happen through a range of surgical techniques that your surgeon will discuss with you prior to your procedure.

An orthopedic surgeon may be the person who works with you to decide if surgery is a good
option for your case. They will provide details on the types of surgeries or approaches that they
may take, and they should inform you about details like recovery time, risks, or possible complications that can occur as a result of surgery.

Post-Surgical Recovery Process

The recovery process following a surgical procedure, like a spinal decompression, can vary from person-to-person, and it can be affected by a number of factors.

You may need to stay overnight in the hospital for one or more days while your recovery
process begins. Your healthcare team will monitor your condition and work with you to
determine when it’s safe to discharge you back to your home. Depending on the procedure, you may be instructed to avoid certain movements or activities for a period of time while you recover.

A surgical procedure can result in pain and you may experience pain following surgery. In many cases, this is to be expected, and your immediate pain should begin to subside in the days and weeks following the surgery. However, it’s important to be communicating with your healthcare team about your pain, as it may need to be evaluated further.

Often, movement is encouraged in the early stages of recovery and as you progress – you may even begin walking the day of or the day following your procedure. A physical therapist will help you to understand the safe movement strategies you can use to start getting back to your daily activities safely.

After you leave the hospital, you may be referred to physical therapy to progress your
rehabilitation and safely move through your recovery.
Your healthcare team will collaborate with you during your recovery process, and you will likely be checking in with the members of your team regularly as you progress. They will continue to monitor you and evaluate how everything is healing, and they will work with you to address any concerns or make any necessary changes to your plan as you move forward.

Is Spinal Decompression Surgery Right For you?

Spinal decompression surgery is one option that may be discussed with you as part of a
treatment plan meant to help relieve pain caused by a cervical or lumbar radiculopathy.
Treatment is often centered around reducing pain, increasing motion, strength, and improving your ability to participate in the activities that you enjoy or need to perform on a daily basis, and it is typically recommended that conservative treatment, like physical therapy, be used first before surgery is discussed. That may not be the case for everyone, which is why it’s important to discuss the treatment options available to you with healthcare professionals whom you trust – they will be able to provide you with specific options fitted to your needs and goals.

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