Spinal Decompression Surgery Recovery Time

By  //  October 30, 2020

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Few things in this life are truly trying on one’s patience. One of these things is surgery. Surgery, no matter how minor or major, immediately makes one painfully aware of the pace at which the human body heals. Most of our injuries happen when we’re either really young or much older.

When we’re young, we may as well have been a superhero. Once we push 30, we feel a bit more worn. It’s a trope that’s been used time and time again because it’s true. Older people need more time. 

But what exactly does this entail? What are the details surrounding recovery from surgery? What about something as major as spinal decompression? How long does that take?

Here we’ll look into the various factors and contributions to spinal decompression recovery. While you’re reading this, remember that no two people are alike. These are, for all intents and purposes, as close to a generalization as we can get. 

What is Being Compressed? 

First off, we have to go into what exactly we’re decompressing. According to the top spine surgeon Sydney has to offer, the spinal cord is what’s being compressed. See, the spinal cord goes from the brain stem in the back of your head down to your lower back in this tunnel made up of hollow areas called “vertebral foramen.”

If you’ve seen a picture of the spine, it’s directly behind those thick, boney, short-cylinder vertebral bodies. In between those vertebral bodies are thick, gel-filled hockey pucks called “intervertebral discs.”

If it weren’t for those discs, every step you took would be a shock wave going up a solid spine, echoing in your skull. When you put excessive pressure on the spine, or move violently, or get into an accident, the gel center of those discs can rupture. Most of the time it ruptures, it goes back towards the spinal cord or one of the spinal nerves that protrude from either side. That’s what’s being compressed. That’s why. 

Decompression Surgery Types 

We don’t have to go into what the injury and sensations are. If you’re reading this, then chances are that you or a loved one is going through it. You don’t need the blog to tell you what you’re feeling. Instead, we’ll talk about the different kinds of spinal decompression surgery. 

The first is a minimally invasive version called a microdecompression. This is most typically done in the lumbar spine. When they go in, they create a relatively small incision and fit in a tube to expose a piece of the spine. They then take a piece of bone, disc, or both out, being careful to keep the structural integrity of the vertebra and relieve the pressure against the spinal cord or nerve. This is currently considered the gold standard for slipped discs in the lumbar region. 

The second surgery is an open decompression. This consists of a larger incision and is usually meant for conditions such as central spinal stenosis. In this procedure, surgeons are going to remove a larger portion of the lamina. After enough is removed and the pressure is relieved, The vertebrae are often fused to provide a functionally stable column for support of the limbs and body mass.

The Estimated Recovery Times 

If you underwent either of these surgeries, you’re looking at a 4 week minimum recovery time. They’ll encourage you to walk around after a day or two. It will be a bit difficult to reestablish the kind of mobility you want. At the 4 week mark, for micro decompression, you should be able to get around with minimal pain.

At 6 weeks, you should be able to feel better. For the open decompression, you’re looking at something closer to 8 to 10 weeks. If you had your discs fused as well, it’s not uncommon for an individual to be actively recovering for three to four months. These are estimates that are not factoring in various determinants to recovery, of which there are many. But generally, if you’re a healthy adult, you should be able to recover within these time frames. 

The Biggest Detriment to Healing 

One of the most common complications prolonging the time of recovery is diabetes. We often think diabetes is the “too much sugar” disease. We inject insulin and laugh it off.

Diabetes leaves your body susceptible to all sorts of nasty things. Some go blind. Some go into a diabetic coma. But all patients experience a prolonged recovery time after surgery. Why? Diabetics heal slower than non-diabetics.

That may seem like a bit of an odd connection to make. But then again, everything in human physiology seems like a stretch until the dots are connected. First off, increasing blood sugar harms your blood vessels. It can damage them and, like clockwork, does so predictably.

It causes them to harden and layer plaque over the site of injury. When your arteries are hardened, it’s harder to push blood to the places that need it, affecting the natural flow of your blood. Less proper blood flow means fewer nutrients to a site of injury.

That, in turn, leads to a longer recovery time. How much longer exactly will have to be determined by your physician. In some people, it will be significant, in some people–not so much.

Respect the Healing Process

So you go to surgery. What do you do now? You let your body rest! The whole point in recovery is to give the healing area the respect and time that it needs. Don’t muscle through it. That’s a big mistake made by a lot of younger patients.

They want to get back to deadlifting an hour after they had a herniated disc. Adapt to the new lifestyle of working around the injury, and make sure you let it heal as well as it can. You have your whole life ahead of you. Let the thing heal, and then move on, step by step. 

Spinal decompression surgery is a big deal, but it doesn’t have to be the central thing your life revolves around. It’s a problem-solver. It’s meant to enhance your life and improve on an injury. However long it takes is dependent on your health, your routine, and how big the surgery is. But respect the healing process. Do that and you’ll be good before you know it.