Skip to Content
TAMPA & SUN CITY 813-773-1285
BRADENTON 941-842-3855

Spinal Decompression Surgery: Signs You’re a Good Candidate

Father lifting son up into the air by the beach

Are you experiencing excruciating lower back pain and considering spinal surgery?

Spinal decompression gives about 90% of patients relief from their pain.

Read further to learn if you’re a good candidate for surgery.

What Is Spinal Decompression?

Surgeons now perform spinal decompression as a minimally invasive spinal surgery. It reduces recovery time with a smaller incision and less muscle damage.

Decompression surgery is a procedure performed to relieve pain from a pinched nerve. The surgeon removes a small part of bone or disc pressing on the nerve. It gives the nerve more space and improves healing.

Spinal Decompression corrects spinal stenosis. This is a narrowing of the spine that compresses the nerves which causes pain, numbness, and weakness in the legs. Decompression relieves the symptoms.

Other surgeries considered as a spinal decompression are Lumbar Discectomy and Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion.

Lumbar Discectomy treats lumbar spinal stenosis. It creates more room for the nerve root and decreases leg pain and weakness.

Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) treats degenerative disc disease, disc herniation, and trauma to the spine.

What Are Signs That You’re a Good Candidate?

There are a variety of signs that spinal surgery may be a benefit. The main requirement is that you have exhausted all treatment options including physical therapy, pain management, chiropractic, and acupuncture. No improvement after 3-6 months of these therapies means that it’s time for a different plan.

Acute symptoms of nerve compression show that surgery will help. An active and healthy lifestyle increases the success of the procedure. Being a non-smoker and maintaining a healthy weight will help decrease your recovery time.

Make sure that you give a thorough medical history. It will help your doctor to decide the type of surgery that is best based on your condition.

What to Expect From Spinal Surgery

You can have this minimally invasive procedure done as an outpatient in an ASC (Ambulatory Surgery Center).

A Minimally invasive spinal surgery is a procedure done through a small incision that is less than an inch long. It is smaller than the size of a penny. The surgeon puts a small tube between the muscles to protect them. It also shields the tendons and ligaments.

The doctor places special instruments and microscopes in the tube to make a small window to see the bone. He moves the nerves to the side and removes the piece of disc compressing the nerve.

He removes only about 10% of the disc with most of it left undamaged.


There are many benefits to minimally invasive spinal surgery. These include:

  • Short recovery time
  • Small incision less than an inch
  • Outpatient procedure that takes about 30 minutes
  • Less damage to muscles
  • Decreased need for pain medications

These are all worth taking a look at.


As with any surgical procedure, complications can occur. Some of these include:

  • Infection
  • Persistent pain at the graft site
  • Return of symptoms
  • Pseudarthrosis where the spinal fusion doesn’t heal
  • Nerve damage and blood clots in the legs
  • Smoking increases risks

Consider the pros and cons when you are thinking about surgery. Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Your doctor can tell you about those that you may face. The decisions made about each procedure are on an individual and case-by-case basis.

Recovery Period

Minimally invasive spinal surgery decreases the amount of time in the hospital. It varies with each patient and the procedure performed. In general, most patients return home on the same day.

In comparison, patients having traditional surgery are in the hospital for 3-5 days.

You should expect less postoperative pain because of less muscle damage. You will still feel some discomfort, but pain control options are better and easier now for your doctor to manage your pain.

Physical therapy helps to get your strength back and decrease your recovery time. Your overall physical well being and the procedure type will determine exactly how long your recovery takes. Your doctor will give you specific exercises to help you regain your strength.

They will help you get back to your daily activities and work.

It may take several months before the bone heals if you had a fusion procedure. Your pain level should get better much faster than that. Your spine has to stay in proper alignment while you heal. Your doctor will show you the correct ways to move so that you don’t damage your spine during the healing process.

The amount of time you need to return to your daily activities depends on the procedure that you had. Your doctor will check you at your postoperative appointment to make sure that you’re recovering as expected.

Final Thoughts About Spine Surgery

Most people experience a decrease in their leg symptoms immediately after surgery. Your doctor will encourage you to walk and stay active. The incision usually heals over the next 2-3 weeks and your pain should continually improve as your healing progresses.

During this time you should look out for new pain and weakness in your legs. Pay attention to any symptoms you have not had before.

Call your surgeon if you develop a fever or wound drainage or worsening symptoms. These may indicate a problem that needs immediate attention by your doctor.

All Things Considered

Making the decision to have surgery takes a lot of thought by you and your family. Your surgeon should exhaust all nonsurgical options first. There is a saying that the best surgeon knows when to not operate.

Finding the right surgeon that you feel comfortable with and trust to perform your surgery is important. This will ease your mind and make you feel confident in your decision.

You can expect your spinal surgery to restore your quality of life, health, and well-being. You will be pleasantly surprised at the speed of your healing and how soon you can return to activities which you avoided before the surgery.

Schedule an appointment today to learn about your options available to enjoy a pain-free life.

Share To: