Back problems and injuries can be a common problem for people over the age of 40 but many younger people also develop issues that can become long-term ailments. These issues can sometimes require surgery, both minor and major which can result in many concerns and fears.

This FAQ aims to ease those concerns and give you an in-depth insight into back surgery and laminectomies to put your mind at rest.

What is a Laminectomy?

A decompressive laminectomy is a form of surgery that removes the back of a singular, or multiple vertebrae to allow access to the spinal cord or to alleviate pressure on the nerves. This procedure commonly takes place when a person is suffering from a disc issue, such as a herniated disc. This surgery may also be required if a tumor needs to be removed.

Although this form of surgery is quite common, it is still major surgery and all treatment choices should be considered before opting for this procedure which comes with obvious risk and can lead to other complications, just like any surgery of this type.

The spinal laminectomy procedure has a success rate of around 80% in terms of improving mobility.


What is a Lumbar Laminectomy?

Also referred to as open decompression, a decompressive Lumbar Laminectomy is related to the central spinal stenosis, or the narrow part of the spinal cord. Just like any laminectomy, the procedure involves the removal of the posterior part of the vertebrae to create space – this can greatly improve leg functions.

What is a Slipped Disc?

A Slipped Disc occurs when the soft cushion of tissue becomes unaligned and pushes the spine out of place, causing significant pain when it comes into contact with any nerves.

Possible symptoms of a slipped disc can include pain in the lower back and/ or neck and difficulty when bending your back. Incorrectly lifting heavy items or over-exerting yourself can result in a slipped disc but it can also simply be an aging-related ailment.

It can be treated with painkillers and by remaining active. If the pain becomes more severe then you should contact your doctor who can prescribe stronger medication.

Do I need back surgery for a Herniated Disc?

A herniated disc is another common name for a slipped disc, as is a prolapsed disc and usually this issue does not require surgery. Symptoms can sometimes ease in a matter of days but this can be extended to weeks, whereas some people do not notice any symptoms whatsoever.

You may require surgery if the pain becomes unbearable and painkillers no longer work, a slipped disc could also result in numbness and weakening in the spinal column and may even lead to a lack of control of your bladder or bowels.

What is the average back surgery recovery time?

The recovery time for back surgery obviously depends on the severity of the symptoms but on average, you can estimate this to be four-to-six weeks until functionality without pain resumes. However, a full recovery and a return to work may take as long as three months, especially if your job is particularly manual.

Immediately following the surgery, your back is likely to feel very sore but this should subside to a moderate level within a few days.

Will I need physical therapy after back surgery?


Physical therapy is not always required after back surgery but in most cases, it would be beneficial to speed up the recovery process and avoid any complications. Physical therapy can ensure that the patient regains full mobility and strength in their back, allowing them to return to normality and even resume playing sports.


What is spinal fusion surgery?

Spinal fusion surgery, as the name suggests is a procedure that fuses two, or multiple vertebrae together, permanently, so there is no longer any movement between them and they act as one. Connecting the vertebrae together acts in a similar way to the healing process of a broken bone, providing long-term strength to avoid any further issues or breaks.

This major surgery can last for three hours or more and involves removing bone from elsewhere in the body to act as a bridge between the damaged vertebrae. The average spinal fusion surgery recovery time is around three-to-six months, with the help of physical therapy.

What are spinal fusion alternatives?

Alternatives to spinal fusion are;

  • Intradiscal electrothermal coagulation
  • A TOPS lumbar motion device
  • Artificial discs
  • Posterior dynamic stabilization
  • Disc regeneration

Read more about these procedures here.

What does Spondylolisthesis surgery entail?

Similar to spinal fusion, Spondylolisthesis generally involves fusing slipped vertebrae with the bones next to them, this is typically achieved using spinal surgery devices (metal screws and rods) which usually remain in place on a permanent basis. In some cases, discs may also be removed.

The mechanical system that is used in spondylolisthesis surgery may sound daunting but it is a tried, and tested procedure that has been used to treat patients around the world.

What are Pedicle Screws?

As above, a Pedicle screw is a spine device that is used in spinal fusion or Spondylolisthesis surgery to provide extra strength and support to the bones during the healing process. These screws are often left in place permanently and are connected by a medical rod. The rod stops the bones from moving following surgery so the bone graft can fully heal.

What is the treatment for a blood clot in the spine?

A blood clot in the spine, otherwise known as a spinal cord hemorrhage can be caused by a number of things including;

  • Vascular malformations
  • Traumas
  • Bleeding diathesis
  • The result of spinal surgery

This can cause a lot of pain and swift treatment is required which usually comes in the form of prescribed medication. Your doctor is likely to prescribe antiplatelet and anticoagulant drugs, well-known variants of these are aspirin & warfarin.

Signs of a blood clot can range from throbbing or cramping pains, swelling, breathlessness, redness, and pain, amongst other tell-tale signs. Read more here.

We hope this FAQ has proven informative and has shed some light on some of the queries you may have had about spinal surgery and back issues.