Surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis is done to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or the nerve roots. During surgery, damaged parts of your spine are removed or adjusted. When successful, surgery enlarges the spinal canal and relieves pressure on the nerves. This can help reduce pain, numbness, and weakness in your legs.
If you have tried nonsurgical treatment for a period of time as determined by your health professional but your symptoms have not improved, surgery may be considered. Imaging tests such as CT scan or MRI will be done to find out the amount and location of narrowing of the spinal canal. Before making a decision about surgery, discuss the severity of your symptoms and the imaging test results with your health professional.
Surgery may be recommended if you:
- Have severe symptoms of pain, numbness, or weakness in the legs that restricts normal daily activities and quality of life.
- Are in otherwise good health and do not have other medical conditions that might make it harder for you to have and recover from surgery.
Should I have surgery for spinal stenosis?
In general, up to 80% of people are satisfied with the results of surgery for spinal stenosis.4 For people with severe symptoms, surgery usually reduces leg pain and improves walking ability.5 But symptoms may return after several years. About 10% to 20% of people who have had surgery need to have surgery again.4
The main type of surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis is decompressive laminectomy, which relieves pressure on the spinal cord or the spinal nerve roots. Laminectomy removes part of the vertebra (bone and/or fibrous tissue) to create space for nerves. In some cases, spinal fusion will be done at the same time to stabilize the spine. Spinal fusion might relieve your pain and make it easier for you to move around (improve function). It can also help keep the bones from moving into positions that squeeze the spinal canal and put pressure on the spinal cord.
What To Think About
Surgery does not often relieve back pain associated with lumbar spinal stenosis. Surgery is most likely to relieve pain, numbness, or weakness in the legs.4