Back surgery is frequently carried out in order to decompress the spinal nerves and spinal cord. This means that the material cause of nerve and cord compression is removed by directly excising tissue from around the cord and nerves or by altering the spinal structure in such a way as to provide more space for all the tissues present. Where osteophytes are evident and suspected of causing a pinched nerve the use of techniques such as foraminotomy to decompress the spine can be extremely beneficial. In cases where a disc has herniated, surgeons may prefer to wait and see if the disc can recover and heal itself before carrying out any invasive surgery. Where spinal slippage has occurred, such as in spondylolisthesis, back surgery may be needed to realign the spine and fuse it into the correct position, with the resulting decompression of the nerves and cord. However, conditions such as spondylolisthesis are not always responsible for pinched nerves or back pain, making it extremely important to ensure that back decompression surgery is absolutely necessary prior to undergoing any such procedure.
Depending on the extent of material removed during decompression back surgery, it may be necessary to perform a spinal fusion or other stabilization procedure. Together, these operations can effectively relieve the symptoms of spinal stenosis, whether central spinal stenosis, foraminal stenosis, or lateral recess stenosis.
Symptoms of Pinched Nerves and Blood Vessels
Many of those suffering from neck or back pain experience such symptoms due to compression of the spinal nerves or spinal cord. Some sufferers will have pain and discomfort due to muscular problems, although these in themselves can be a result of improper nerve innervation due to stenosis. Compression of blood vessels around the spinal column can also lead to pain, numbness, and weakening of the muscles in the back and neck as ischaemia causes the cells of the surrounding tissues to be deprived of oxygen and nutrients from the blood. Muscle spasms and/or cramps may ensue, along with muscle atrophy if the situation persists. Compression in the brachial plexus, for example, may cause one hand to feel substantially colder than the other and for the patient to have pain upon raising the arm above shoulder height.
Decompression back surgery may help alleviate such symptoms. Examples of decompression back surgeries which are performed in order to relieve pressure in the spine include discectomy, foraminotomy, laminotomy, laminectomy, and transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) amongst others. The recovery period, success rates, risks, and benefits vary between these procedures and patients may also find that not all procedures are available to them, especially those that are novel and specialized techniques.
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