What To Expect From Laminectomy Surgery For Your Lower Back

You've tried a number of non-invasive approaches to relieve the pain in your lower back and leg, but it still persists. Your orthopedic doctor has recommended a laminectomy to reduce the pain and inflammation in your back. This is a common surgery for lower back pain and the prognosis for relieving your pain with this treatment is good. Here is what you need to know about the procedure and how to have a successful recovery.

What a Laminectomy Does for You

Your lower back pain comes from an irritation of the nerves that come out of the spinal cord. This can be due to a rupture of one of the cartilage discs that cushions the bones in your spine. Or it can be from a degeneration of the bones in the spine that creates bone spurs and narrow areas that irritate the nerves. The laminectomy removes the irritation from the nerves, which reduces the pain and swelling.

How the Procedure Affects Recovery

When the orthopedic surgeon exposes that portion of your back where the pain originates, they will determine how much work they will need to do. If removing a bone spur from one of the vertebra resolves the problem, you'll have a short recovery period. If the surgeon determines that a ruptured disc needs to be removed, followed by a bone graft and stabilizing rods to fuse two vertebra together, you'll have a much more extensive recovery period.

What to Expect During Your Recovery

Regardless of how complex the procedure is, the stages of your recover will be similar. The exact procedures done will determine how long you stay in each stage of your recovery.

Post-operative hospital stay: You'll be in the hospital for a couple of days while the staff monitor your incision and help you get ready to be at home. They may get you up to walk a few hours after your surgery. They will show you how to get in and out of a bed and chairs without bending your back. When the doctor sees that you can get around with minimal help and the surgical site shows no sign of infection or drainage, you'll be free to go home.

Tissue Healing and Back Flexibility:  During your first week or two at home, you'll be able to do some of your normal daily activities. Some of the restrictions you'll need to follow include:

  • Move and lift only those objects that don't require bending or twisting at the waist.
  • No driving for a week or two until you see your doctor for your first follow up.
  • Do not sit for long periods without getting up to stretch your back muscles.
  • Take several short walks each day for exercise instead of one long walk to give your back time to rest between outings.
  • Try sleeping on your side if it's difficult to sleep on your back.

Your doctor will see you in a week or two after the surgery to check your incision and remove any staples. They will then tell you if you can drive and let you begin strength training.

Strengthening the Back Muscles: You'll now spend several weeks strengthening the muscles in your back, hip and leg that were affected by the painful nerve irritation. Your doctor may prescribe physical therapy. You'll also learn exercises you can do at home to slowly stretch out and strengthen the muscles. The more work that was done in your back, the longer this step is likely to be. If you're very physically active or are an athlete, you can expect several months of getting your back in shape to support intense physical activity.