Share This Article


A common source of low back and leg pain is pressure or compression on the nerve roots in the spine. A surgical procedure called a laminectomy is often used to relieve this pressure and the associated pain.

The goal of a laminectomy is to relieve nerve compression by widening the space around the nerves (the spinal canal and the nerve tunnels). The surgeon removes or trims the lamina (roof) of the vertebra to make more room for the nerves in the neuroforamen. The surgery may also include the fusion of vertebrae or the removal of part or all of a vertebral disc. Instrumentation like spinal screws or rods may be used to add additional support to the spine and help facilitate fusion.

How is it done?
A small incision is made in the lower back. Using a retractor, the surgeon spreads apart the muscles and fatty tissue of the spine. A portion of the lamina is removed so the surgeon can identify the cause of the compression on the nerve roots. Spinal compression is most often caused by a herniated disc. However, other sources of pressure may include:

  • Disc fragments or bulges
  • Osteophytes or bone spurs
  • Swollen ligaments
  • Tumors

Once the source of the compression is identified, it is removed and pressure is relieved. The incision is then closed using either absorbable sutures (stitches), which absorb on their own, or skin sutures, which have to be removed after the incision has healed.

Patients are usually up and walking the same day as the surgery. Recovery times vary; however, most patients can expect a short hospital stay. Once discharged, patients need to rest at home and avoid any heavy lifting or excessive stress on the spine. Daily walking is usually recommended to increase strength and regain flexibility. Once the incision has healed and the physician approves, patients can return to work and other daily living activities.