Lumbar Spinal Laminectomy
Laminectomy is surgery that creates space by removing the lamina — the back part of a vertebra that covers your spinal canal. Also known as decompression surgery, laminectomy enlarges your spinal canal to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.
Bone Spur Surgery
This pressure is most commonly caused by bony overgrowths within the spinal canal, which can occur in people who have arthritis in their spines. These overgrowths are sometimes referred to as bone spurs, but they’re a normal side effect of the aging process in some people.
When Decompressive Laminectomy is Necessary
Laminectomy is generally used only when more-conservative treatments — such as medication, physical therapy or injections — have failed to relieve symptoms. Laminectomy may also be recommended if symptoms are severe or worsening dramatically.
A cervical laminectomy is performed for certain patients with cervical spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal. Stenosis may be caused by a number of degenerative spine conditions, including wear and tear on the bones, discs, and ligaments. A narrow spinal canal can compress (pinch) the spinal cord and surrounding nerves. Compression may irritate a spinal nerve or nerves, causing radiculopathy (pain, weakness, numbness or tingling in one limb). Compression of the spinal cord itself can damage its delicate tissues and cause myelopathy (pain, weakness, numbness or tingling in both arms or legs, difficulty walking, and/or loss of bowel or bladder control).
Cervical Spinal Stenosis Surgery
A laminectomy decompresses (removes the pressure from) the spinal cord and spinal nerves. It is generally effective when performed in patients who have an identifiable compression resulting in radiculopathy or myelopathy.
Before surgery is considered, nonoperative measures like physical therapy and pain medications may be tried. These measures provide effective relief in many cases. But when other treatment plans do not provide relief, and a problem exists that can be surgically corrected, surgery is often the treatment of choice. Surgery is also typically required for cases in which the spinal cord is compressed.
Laminotomy vs Laminectomy
These two surgeries have a similarity in that they both operate on your spine’s lamina, where they get their names. Now, the laminectomy is the complete removal of the lamina, the laminotomy only removes a piece of that lamina. The reason for the surgeries are also similar, in that they aim to decompress a nerve causing back pain or other nerve related symptoms. The lamina may be removed because it is causing the compression of your nerve, or it may need to be partially removed to gain access to the parts of the spine that are causing the nerve compression.
How soon after a laminectomy can I exercise?
Exercising can be strenuous on your back, and the area where your laminectomy was performed, so it’s typical to avoid heavy lifting, bending, or exercising for 2-3 months. If you had additional surgeries with a laminectomy, such as a spinal fusion, you may wait up to 4 months during the recovery period. Light walking and guided physical therapy when you’re ready as advised by your doctor can help speed up the recovery time frame.
More about Laminectomy Recovery
You should try to avoid biking, jogging, and weight lifting until you’re cleared by your doctor. You should also avoid driving for a few weeks, and sitting in a car for more than 30 minutes at a time, and if you do, be sure to take a break to walk as to avoid excess strain on your back. It’s important to get enough sleep while healing, since it will aid in your recovery process. You can use heating pads on low or a warm cloth to help with back soreness if needed, but be sure not to fall asleep with the heating pad on your skin.
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