When is Surgery an Option to Treat Spinal Stenosis?
In most of the cases of spinal stenosis the main aim of the physician is to treat the condition conservatively and the response that the patients give to this approach is also extremely positive. However, there are individuals who do not respond well to conservative treatment for spinal stenosis and in fact the symptoms go on worsening to the extent doing activities of daily living becomes a task for them as a result of severe pain caused by spinal stenosis. For such individuals, it becomes necessary to resort to surgical intervention to treat spinal stenosis.
In order for an individual to have surgical intervention to treat spinal stenosis the following criteria should be met:
- Non-responsive to conservative forms of treatment
- Worsening pain symptoms making it difficult for the individual to complete daily tasks
- Worsening numbness and tingling radiating down to the extremities, arms in the case of cervical spinal stenosis and down the legs in cases of lumbar stenosis.
- Loss of sensation with weakness in the extremities
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
The surgery performed to treat spinal stenosis is called spinal decompression surgery. The main aim of the surgery is to free up some space in the spinal cord and nerve roots such that they can pass through more easily and thus relieve the symptoms caused by spinal stenosis. Surgery for spinal stenosis also improves the strength and sensation of the extremities
Recovery Time Following Spinal Stenosis Surgery
Coming to how long does it take for an individual to recover from surgery for spinal stenosis, the first and the most important thing is to know that the symptoms will not get better overnight or immediately after surgery.
The surgeon will allow the patient to get out of bed and walk with assistance about 24 hours after spinal stenosis surgery. Within a couple of days after spinal decompression surgery, if the surgeon feels that the patient is recovering well following surgery then he or she will be discharged from the hospital. The patient will be prescribed pain medications to be taken for about three weeks.
The patient will be given detailed instructions on how to sit, stand, walk, and rise from a seated position after spinal stenosis surgery (spinal decompression). The patient will be advised to restrict activities which may aggravate the condition or stress the spine excessively. Sport is something which the patient will be asked to avoid, especially contact sports. These restrictions will be in place for up to three months after surgery.
On the whole, it will take about 3-6 months for an individual to completely recover from a spinal stenosis surgery and be able to perform all the activities of daily living without pain or discomfort from spinal stenosis.
In conclusion, spinal stenosis surgery (spinal decompression) is chosen as a last resort for treatment of spinal stenosis. This surgery is done on patients who do not respond to conservative measures and have worsening symptoms despite nonsurgical treatments. The improvement in symptoms may not be seen immediately after the spinal decompression procedure but is seen over a period of time.
For a young active individual it may take anywhere between one to three months for complete recovery from spinal stenosis surgery, and in cases where the individual is more sedentary and aged, it may take anywhere between 3-6 months before he or she can fully recover after surgery for spinal stenosis.
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