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Here Are Five Signs of Needing Spinal Nerve Decompression Surgery


Decompression surgery is a treatment option for relieving chronic pain related to nerve compression. By removing the damaged or displaced tissue that is causing a compressed nerve, also called a pinched nerve, surgeons are able to help patients achieve meaningful pain relief. Decompression surgery can be performed in nearly any location of the body where nerve compression occurs, with spinal nerve decompression surgery being very common due to the high frequency of neck or back pain.

Because of the high stress on the spine combined with the large volume of nerve tissue in this part of the body, many patients experience chronic pain due to spinal nerve compression. Although nerve decompression surgery is highly effective in achieving pain relief, it’s not for everyone. Here are five major indicators to help you determine if spinal nerve decompression surgery is the best course of treatment for you.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about your treatment options, don’t hesitate to reach out to the caring and dedicated team at USA Spine Care today.

  1. You have debilitating symptoms related to a spine condition

Not all cases of spinal nerve compression require surgery. In fact, many people experience some degree of spinal narrowing and compression of nerves while dealing with minor symptoms. Very often, these symptoms are manageable through a combination of conservative therapy, lifestyle changes and modifying activities.

Decompression surgery is usually indicated in cases where the following symptoms are causing moderate to severe chronic pain:

  • Neck and/or back pain, depending on the location of nerve compression
  • Shooting pain into the upper or lower extremities
  • Neuropathic symptoms, such as tingling and numbness
  • Muscle weakness and spasms that hinder mobility
  1. You are experiencing a diminished quality of life

Nerve decompression becomes a serious consideration for patients dealing with the above symptoms that are causing significant disruption in daily activities. Not only can chronic pain related to nerve compression affect your productivity and relationships, but it can also begin to affect mental health, leading to increased risk of depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances. In combination, chronic pain can lead to a major decline in quality of life, with nerve decompression surgery offering the best chance of pain relief for many patients.

However, any form of surgery is a major life decision, which is why a large number of people continue pursuing conservative therapies if they find symptoms to be manageable. Nerve decompression surgery is generally the best course of action when pain is persistently debilitating.

  1. You have fully exhausted conservative treatments 

Nonsurgical treatment for nerve compression in the spine can be very effective, and many patients are able to find lasting relief without needing to undergo surgery. That is why physicians typically start with conservative options when diagnosing spinal nerve compression and ensure that they have been thoroughly explored before recommending a patient undergoes surgery.

Decompression surgery can start to be seen as a viable treatment option if you have attempted a full course of weeks or months of the following therapies:

  • Periods of rest
  • Hot and cold therapy on the area to help relax tense muscles and relieve inflammation
  • Physical therapy
  • Therapeutic injections
  • Over-the-counter medication, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Conservative treatment can be especially effective for chronic pain related to nerve compression if combined with a spine-healthy lifestyle.

  1. You have made any necessary lifestyle adjustments

Patients diagnosed with a spine condition that is causing nerve compression should take steps to limit any stress that is placed on the spine. This typically involves certain lifestyle changes that promote the overall health of the spine, including:

  • Managing weight to reduce pressure on the spine
  • Avoiding overexertion
  • Strengthening supporting muscles through exercise and physical therapy
  • Practicing good posture to avoid uneven stress on the spine
  • Eating a nutrient-rich anti-inflammatory diet

Committing fully to nonsurgical treatment and a spine healthy lifestyle helps a large number of people achieve significant chronic pain relief without the need for decompression surgery. However, if weeks or months have gone by without bringing relief, it may be time to explore surgical options.

  1. You have an operable condition and are a suitable candidate

Not all patients who have chronic neck or back pain related to nerve compression are candidates for nerve decompression surgery. First, a surgeon has to positively identify a specific condition, such as a bone spur or herniated disc, as the source of pain. This usually involves diagnostic testing such as an X-ray or MRI, as well as a spinal nerve block to ensure that the compressed nerve is what is causing symptoms.

Additionally, patients will need to pass a thorough medical screening and evaluation to ensure that they can undergo surgery. Factors that can affect the surgical candidacy include:

  • Medical history
  • Weight
  • Presence of a heart or lung condition
  • Previous spine surgery
  • Spinal stability

For example, patients with severe spinal degeneration that causes spinal instability may need to undergo spinal fusion instead of spinal decompression surgery. However, due to advances in surgical technique and medical technology, more patients than ever are able to undergo nerve decompression surgery for the spine.

Learn about the benefits of minimally invasive decompression surgery

At USA Spine Care, our highly skilled surgeons perform minimally invasive decompression surgery that allows for a streamlined, outpatient procedure. If you are living with chronic pain related to a condition causing spinal nerve compression, we want to help you no matter where you are on your treatment journey. From physical therapy and pain-relieving injection to minimally invasive outpatient decompression, our multidisciplinary experts can help you develop a personalized treatment plan.

Contact us today to learn more about your treatment options.

Nerve Decompression Quick Answers

What is nerve decompression?

In the most general sense, nerve decompression is any therapeutic technique designed to take pressure off of a compressed, or pinched, nerve to achieve pain relief. Although most people associate nerve decompression with decompression surgery, there are a range of nonsurgical decompression techniques, including manual therapy. Your doctor or other treatment professional can help you determine which approach is right for your needs.

How long does it take to recover from nerve decompression surgery?

The recovery process for nerve decompression surgery varies on a case-by-case basis and depends on the specific procedure and patient. The approach to surgery can also make a difference in recovery time, with minimally invasive procedures offering shorter recovery time compared to traditional open spine decompression. Recovery can range from four weeks to months or longer.

How is nerve decompression surgery performed?

There are a number of approaches to spinal nerve decompression surgery, including minimally invasive techniques. These procedures use a small incision and muscle-sparing techniques that allow for an outpatient procedure. This gives patients the opportunity for a procedure with less risk of complication and a shorter recovery time.

How do you decompress a pinched nerve?

In spinal decompression surgery, surgeons remove the displaced spinal material, such as part of a herniated disc or a bone spur, that is putting pressure on the nerve. This helps relieve symptoms that are causing chronic pain, such as shooting pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness.

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