Spinal decompression is used to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and spinal nerves. As the spinal cord becomes compressed, changes occur which can leave you feeling pain or weakness. Spinal decompression is designed to alleviate these symptoms. There are surgical and nonsurgical options for spinal decompression.
As with any surgery, spinal decompression surgery requires a delicate touch. The proximity to the spinal cord does open up the patient for a risk of damage to neural tissues by the surgeon. The most common issue with spinal decompression surgery is that the membrane covering the spinal cord and nerve roots gets torn. This could cause a cerebrospinal fluid leak which can cause neurological impairment. It is also very possible that the spinal cord and nerve roots could be jeopardized resulting in a loss or impairment of sensory or motor function.
If screws and rods are used to stabilize your spine or used to fuse vertebrae there is always a risk that the hardware might fail or cause infection. You could also be at risk for fractured vertebrae either during or after the surgery.
Occasionally, spinal decompression surgery can result in tissue damage. Excessive bleeding is a risk of surgery as well as the risk of clots forming and migrating causing a deep vein thrombosis. This is dangerous because it can result in more tissue damage or can cause severe damage if the clot travels to the lungs or brain.
In some cases, surgery only relieves symptoms temporarily. Due to the risks involved and the chance that the treatment may not permanently resolve your symptoms, many people choose to seek other methods of spinal decompression.
For patients that do not want to undergo surgery with the risks involved, there are a number of other options to safely decompress your spine with fewer risks. The FDA has approved certain equipment to be used as a non-surgical spinal decompression device.
There are also a number of stretches and exercises that can be done in your own home to help with spinal decompression without requiring surgery. Your doctor will be able to advise you what exercises and stretches will be able to help you the best.