Spinal decompression for neck pain

Spinal decompression surgery reduces pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerve roots and may reduce neck pain. To relieve the pressure, your doctor may remove:

  • Bony growths (osteophytes) and fibrous tissue that are narrowing the spinal canal and pressing on spinal nerve roots.
  • Parts of the vertebrae (laminectomy) to enlarge the spinal canal, to relieve pressure on the spinal nerve roots.
  • Disc material (discectomy) from a herniated disc that pushes into the spinal canal.

In some cases, after bone and disc material are removed, the affected bone (vertebrae) parts may be joined together (spinal fusion) to stabilize them.

Surgery is only done to relieve severe symptoms of neck pain caused by pressure on the nerve roots (especially from a herniated disc). This pressure on the nerve roots may also cause arm pain, numbness, or tingling; leg pain, numbness, or tingling; or problems with bladder or bowel control. In these cases, surgery successfully relieves pain 80% to 90% of the time.1 But even neck pain caused by pressure on the nerve roots is usually first treated without surgery.

Citations

  1. Nakano KK (2005). Neck pain. In ED Harris Jr et al., eds., Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology, 7th ed., vol. 1, pp. 537–556. Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders.

Last Updated: August 21, 2008

Author: Shannon Erstad, MBA/MPH

Medical Review: William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine & Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics

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