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Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal. The spinal canal contains the nerves that leave the spinal cord. A combination of arthritis in the spine or bulging (herniation) of the discs or (in rarer cases) spondylolisthesis (where a vertebra slips forward or backward) or spinal tumours can cause this narrowing. Decompression is performed to release nerves trapped by this narrowing.

Initially your consultant may recommend anti-inflammatory medication for pain. If you have pain down your leg that is caused by pressure on the nerve in your lower back (sciatica), your surgeon may recommend a steroid injection in your spine.

What happens during lumbar spinal decompression?

You will probably have an MRI scan to confirm the diagnosis and help your surgeon plan your operation.

Decompression is usually performed under general anaesthetic. Your surgeon will make an incision (cut) in your lower back. They will remove enough bone and tissue to free the trapped nerves. They will close the incision with stitches and dress the wound.

After your spinal decompression

Immediately after your surgery you will be taken to the recovery area. Staff will monitor your blood pressure, heart rate and breathing. If you are in any pain be sure and tell the recovery room staff. When you are stable a nurse will take you to your room.

Back in your room

Once you are back in your room, our nursing team will continue to check on you to make sure you are recovering well. After you’ve recovered from any effects of the anaesthetic, you can have something to eat and drink. Be sure and tell us if you are in any pain.

Some patients have difficulty passing urine after decompression surgery. If you are in any discomfort please tell a member of our Healthcare Team.

You will be encouraged to get up and move around as soon as possible - usually within 24 hours of your operation. Please wait for a member of our Healthcare Team to help you out of bed for the first time.

A physiotherapist will visit you to advise you on any restrictions and give you exercises to help you regain mobility. You may be advised to avoid bending, twisting or lifting anything heavy for the first six weeks following surgery.

Going home after spinal decompression

The length of your stay in hospital will depend on the degree of decompression performed. Be sure and discuss this with your surgeon. 

Any stitches or staples will be removed 10 - 14 days after your operation.

You will not be able to drive or return to work until you are released to do so at your follow-up appointment with your consultant. Please arrange for someone to take you home on the day of your discharge. 

You may feel very tired and sore for the first few weeks. It is important to rest and allow your body to heal. 

You will be encouraged to walk during your recovery. Start with short distances and build up slowly. Avoid sitting for long periods. Keeping mobile will help you to avoid DVT (deep vein thrombosis).

Most people make a good recovery and return to normal activities following spinal decompression. As with any surgery there can be complications:

Specific complications of spinal decompression:

  • Bleeding in the spinal column
  • Continued pain or numbness
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Infection in the spine
  • Nerve damage
  • Leaking of spinal fluid

Why not print this treatment page so you can discuss any concerns you have with your surgeon?

Find your nearest hospital that provides this treatment
Bournemouth  

67 Lansdowne Road, Bournemouth, BH1 1RW

01202 291866
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Brentwood  

Shenfield Road, Brentwood, CM15 8EH

01277 695695
Overall rating Good
Brighton  

Warren Road, Brighton, BN2 6DX

01273 624488
Overall rating Good
Bristol  

3 Clifton Hill, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1BN

0117 906 4870
Overall rating Good
Cambridge  

4 Trumpington Road, Cambridge, CB2 8AF

01223 370 922
Overall rating Outstanding
Cardiff and Vale  

Cardiff Bay Hospital, Dunleavey Drive, Cardiff, CF11 0SN

02920 836700
Cheltenham  

Hatherley Lane, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL51 6SY

01242 246 552
Overall rating Good
Chester  

Wrexham Road, Chester, CH4 7QP

01244 680 444
Overall rating Good
Chichester  

78 Broyle Road, Chichester, PO19 6WB

01243 530600
Overall rating Good
Derby  

Rykneld Road, Derby, DE23 4SN

01332 540100
Overall rating Good
Exeter  

Wonford Road, Exeter, EX2 4UG

01392 262110
Overall rating Good
Glasgow  

25 Beaconsfield Road, Glasgow, G12 0PJ

01413349441
Guildford  

Stirling Road, Guildford, GU2 7RF

01483 555 800
Overall rating Good
Haywards Heath  

Burrell Road, Haywards Heath, RH16 1UD

01444 456999
Overall rating Good
Hereford  

Venns Lane, Hereford, HR1 1DF

01432 355 131
Overall rating Good
Ipswich  

Foxhall Road, Ipswich, IP4 5SW

Enquiries 0300 1311419
Overall rating Good
Leeds  

2 Leighton Street, Leeds, LS1 3EB

01133 882 067
Overall rating Outstanding
Leicester  

Scraptoft Lane, Leicester, LE5 1HY

Enquiries 0300 1311416
Overall rating Good
Newcastle upon Tyne  

Clayton Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE2 1JP

0191 281 6131
Overall rating Good
North Staffordshire  

Clayton Road, Newcastle-under-Lyme, ST5 4DB

01782 625431
Overall rating Good
Oxford  

Beech Road, Headington, Oxford, OX3 7RP

01865 307777
Overall rating Good
Plymouth  

Derriford Road, Plymouth, PL6 8BG

01752 775861
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Shrewsbury  

Longden Road, Shrewsbury, SY3 9DP

01743 282628
Overall rating Good
Taunton  

Staplegrove Elm, Taunton, TA2 6AN

01823 286991
Overall rating Good
Tees  

Junction Road, Norton, Stockton on Tees, TS20 1PX

01642 367439
Overall rating Outstanding
Warwickshire  

The Chase, Old Milverton Lane, Leamington Spa, CV32 6RW

01926 427971
Overall rating Good
Wessex  

Winchester Road, Chandlers Ford, Eastleigh, SO53 2DW

02380 266 377
Overall rating Good
Woking  

Shores Road, Woking, GU21 4BY

Switchboard 01483 227800
Overall rating Good
Wolverhampton  

Wood Road, Tettenhall, Wolverhampton, WV6 8LE

01902 793 269
Overall rating Good
York  

Haxby Road, York, YO31 8TA

01904 715000
Overall rating Good

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