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Lumbar decompression

Lumbar decompression surgery is the removal of material (bone or disc material) from the lumbar spine that is taking up space causing pressure on the nerve root. Lumbar decompression is conducted to increase the space for nerves and to alleviate pain in the lower back, buttocks and legs and promote return to normal activities. The two common types of lumbar decompression aremicrodiscectomyandlaminectomyto relieve pain in the lower back and legs.

A lumbar decompression may be recommended if an individual has experienced pain in their lower back, buttocks or legs for a long period of time, accompanied with numbness and weakness and difficulty walking.The operation is done under general anaesthetic and involves a short hospital stay.

Therapist performing lower back vertebral decompression.Above: Therapist performing lower back vertebral decompression.

Physiotherapy before a lumbar decompression

Pre-op physiotherapy will help to stabilise your spine and prepare the muscles and the lumbar spine for rehabilitation post-operatively. Gentle exercises will be tailored to your current level of pain and disability. Information and advice may be provided by your physiotherapist to prepare you after your surgery.

Symptoms after a lumbar decompression

It is normal to experience some pain and discomfort during the healing process after your surgery. You may feel tenderness and discomfort around the incision area as it heals, however you will be given pain medication to relieve this. Some individuals find ice packs offer pain relief. A physiotherapist will get you up walking approximately 24 hours after the operation although this will depend on how you feel at that time. Early ambulation is encouraged to promote healing and recovery. You will usually be discharged between 3 and 6 days or until the physiotherapist is confident in your ability to walk and transfer independently

Therapist assisted lower back decompressionAbove: Therapist assisted lower back decompression

Physiotherapy following a lumbar decompression

Physiotherapy treatment should be restarted as soon as possible after your surgery for the best possible recovery. Physiotherapy at will initially identify and correct any faulty movement patterns, muscle imbalance and joint stiffness as a result of your surgery. Physiotherapy treatment will improve you mobility, muscle strength, flexibility and physical fitness after your surgery and facilitate your return to full function.

Mobilisation of the vertebrea in the lower backAbove: Mobilisation of the vertebrea in the lower back

1-2 weeks

Physiotherapy treatment at commenced shortly after your surgery will promote your recovery and return to work. Physiotherapy treatment at this stage will include:
  • Teaching you how to mobilise safely and independently
  • Improving posture and confidence with movement
  • Relieving pain and inflammation using electrotherapy combined with hands on techniques.
  • Range of movement exercises to reduce the formation of scar tissue and promote healing.
  • Pain management
Your physiotherapist at will also advise you on the activities to be cautious of while the pain settles and the spine is healing.

Pain associated with the muscles and connective tissues of the lower backAbove: Pain associated with the muscles and connective tissues of the lower back

2-6 weeks

At this stage of your treatment, a gradual increase in exercises will be introduced including activities to be continued on a regular basis at home. A structured exercise program will be developed suited to your lifestyle. Walking is an ideal activity and will be incorporated into your exercise programme. Physiotherapy at this stage may include:
  • Activities to re-educate normal movement patterns
  • Stretching shortened structures and mobilising muscles and joints in order to restore full and correct range of movement.
  • Isometric strengthening abdominal exercises
  • Exercises to strengthen the quads, hamstrings and glutes
  • Walking
  • Stationary cycling
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Advice about how to self manage activities of daily living
Return to work and driving is usually recommended between 4 -6 weeks, depending on your individual circumstances. Physiotherapy treatment will monitor how your movement and muscle strength to make sure that you are safe returning to these activities.

6-12 weeks

Your exercise program at this point will progress so that you continue to strengthen the muscles around your lower back, hips and legs. As you continue to improve, your physiotherapist will tailor the exercises to your lifestyle, in order to promote your return to work and sporting activity. Your physiotherapist may also suggest ways to correct posture in lying, sitting and standing to make sure you are comfortable at home or at work. Physiotherapy treatment at this stage may include:
  • Strengthening muscles (i.e. deep abdominals, and the gluteal/buttock muscles) to stabilise the spine
  • Stretching
  • Progressing walking distance
  • Exercises based around your work or sporting life
  • Correcting and varying posture

12+ weeks

Your physiotherapist at this stage of your recovery will continue to improve your muscle strength, flexibility, endurance, posture and functional ability. Tailoring the treatment to you will ensure that you make progress and reach your maximum physical potential so that you can carry out the activities important to you. Dedication to the treatment programme and the home exercises is important. Our motivated team of physiotherapists at will guide and support you throughout your rehabilitation so decrease your postoperative recovery and improve your quality of life.

For more information call now on 0330 088 7800 or to book an appointment please contact us.

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