Lumbar spinal decompression

Lumbar spinal decompression surgery can help to reduce the pain and weakness of spinal stenosis and allow you to return to normal activities.

How do problems with spinal stenosis occur?

Spinal stenosis problems can occur when the space containing spinal cord nerves in the spinal canal narrows. The nerves can get trapped where they leave the spine or in the spinal canal, meaning you have weakness and pain in your legs. It has three causes:

  • Arthritis of the spine
  • Thickened ligaments
  • Discs bulging in the spine

Why consider surgery?

Surgery should mean you suffer less pain and weakness, allowing you to carry out normal activities more comfortably.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

If you prefer not to have surgery, you might find that the symptoms of pain and weakness go away over time. Alternatively, steroid injections into the spine can help to reduce pain going down your leg (known as sciatica).

What happens during the operation?

Your surgeon will discuss the method of anaesthesia with you, though a general anaesthetic is commonly used. You will usually have an MRI scan first to confirm the diagnosis and to give the surgeon a better idea of what the surgery needs to achieve. The operation takes an hour to an hour and a half.

The operation is achieved by cutting into the central spine in the area of the lower back to free the trapped nerves by removing ligament and bone from the spine. With spinal stenosis surgery, the surgeon will realign and repair the bones using a bone graft or metal screws and rods.

What is the anticipated recovery time for this operation?

Patients are usually discharged within three to five days, though you will be encouraged to walk on the first day after your surgery.

Ask your GP or healthcare team about resuming exercise, which will help you get mobile again more quickly. You will probably be advised to avoid heavy lifting after surgery on your back.

You should be aware that spinal stenosis can come return, and you might still have back pain after surgery due to wear and tear on the spine.


Spinal decompression surgery can help to reduce the pain and weakness of spinal stenosis and allow you to return to normal activities.

Acknowledgements: EIDO Healthcare Limited

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