Spine-related symptoms that can range from mild to debilitating are sometimes caused by pressure on nerves around vertebrae in certain areas of the backbone. The problem is sometimes worsened by bone spurs, a sudden, traumatic injury, or spinal abnormalities. Initial attempts at relief usually involve anti-inflammatory medications, manual manipulations, and therapeutic techniques such as heat/ice applications. If these efforts aren’t successful, a laminectomy might be recommended. Here’s what you need to know about this procedure and the possible benefits associated with it.
Performed under general anesthesia, a laminectomy is one of the most common types of decompression procedures. During the procedure, the rear part of a vertebral bone (lamina) is removed. While it’s often performed in the lumbar (lower) spine area, a laminectomy can be done at any level or segment. If there are bone spurs also compressing nerves, they will be removed during the same surgery. A laminectomy may correct nerve pressure related to:
• Herniated discs
• Age-related disc wear (degenerative disc disease)
• Vertebral slippage (spondylolisthesis)
• Spinal canal narrowing (spinal stenosis)
• Sciatic nerve pressure (sciatica)
The main benefit patients often experience when a laminectomy relieves nerve pressure is pain relief. Depending on how long a nerve was compressed, it may take several weeks or months for the affected nerve root(s) to fully heal. Additional benefits associated with undergoing a laminectomy surgery performed by a trusted Santa Monica spine surgeon include the following:
Consistent pressure on nerves can produce localized or radiating pain. Depending on how nerves are compressed, discomfort may be triggered by walking and similar movements. Once nerves are no longer irritated, mobility often increases.
Radiating nerve pain can make it difficult to concentrate on other tasks or get around without distracting pain. If lower spine nerves were compressed, a laminectomy may result in relief from common lumbar radiculopathy symptoms such as:
• “Pins and needles,” or prickling sensations (paresthesia)
• Numbness and tingling that extends to the hips, buttocks, or thighs
• Tingling sensations and pain in the legs (usually one leg is affected more)
Some patients notice an immediate decrease in back pain after a laminectomy. However, others may need physical therapy during the recovery period to noticeably reduce discomfort. If nerve compression was the main source of back pain, patients may experience a significant reduction in spine-related pain when recovery is complete.
Ultimately, a higher quality of life can make having laminectomy surgery a smart decision if other treatment attempts aren’t effective. Not having to manage back pain or nerve-related symptoms could allow patients to:
• Resume full work-related duties
• Participate in favorite sports or activities
• Interact more with family members and friends
If a laminectomy provides meaningful relief, you may be advised to take other steps to prevent future problems with irritated or compressed spinal nerves. Recommendations typically include making an effort to watch your posture when sitting or standing, reducing your consumption of sugary snacks and other foods that tend to contribute to inflammation, and doing exercises that target the core muscle groups that support the spine in some way.
If you want to learn more about laminectomy surgery, reach out to The Spine Institute.
Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of professional surgeons have years of experience in procedures such as Coflex implants and foraminotomy. Santa Monica patients can call 310-828-7757 to schedule an in-person evaluation.