Spinal Stenosis Surgery Risks and Recovery Time

lori blog

Spinal Stenosis Surgery

Spinal stenosis is a frustrating, painful condition that arises during the aging process. After diagnosis, it is easy to believe surgery is your only option, yet spinal surgery is risky, and additional conditions may develop, like failed back surgery. Studies have shown that non-surgical procedures like a chiropractor for spinal stenosis are just as effective in relieving symptoms without all the risks.

What is Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal. As the spinal canal narrows, the spaces between vertebrae lessen creating pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. Symptoms of spinal stenosis include decreased range of motion, tingling and numbness in extremities, and pain.

Spinal stenosis commonly develops in the lower back and cervical spine because they are the most mobile regions of the spine. The leading cause of stenosis is osteoarthritis, and in very rare cases, some individuals are born with a naturally narrow spinal canal.

Spinal Stenosis Surgery

The primary goal of stenosis surgery is to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. There are two main surgical procedures: decompression and stabilization. With decompression surgery, surgeons seek to create more space between the vertebrae by removing tissue. While stabilization surgery involves decreasing mobility between vertebrae.

Risks of Surgery

Before undergoing surgery, it is essential to understand the risks. Spinal surgery is exceptionally risky because surgeons must work around the spinal cord and nerves.

Some risks of spinal stenosis surgery include spinal cord and nerve damage, anesthesia complications, partial or complete paralysis, infection, blood loss, and in extremely rare cases, death.

Spinal stenosis surgery does have a good success rate but does not guarantee the stenosis will not return or develop in other areas of the spine. Bone density and the function of spinal discs continuously change during the aging process, and there is the possibility that additional disorders may develop.


Post-surgery the patient requires at least 24 hours of bed rest. They will be reliant on pain-relieving medications for two to four weeks, and these medications can, unfortunately, cause additional side effects like nausea, tiredness, and dependency.

The body requires time to heal after an invasive procedure, and it will take time for muscles to regain strength. The patient must follow the surgeon’s treatment plan to avoid future complications and diligently perform their physical therapy exercises at home.

A patient’s chiropractor or physical therapist will work closely with them to re-pattern healthy posture and movement practices. They will learn how to properly lift objects, sit and stand, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise correctly.

Non-surgical Treatment Plans

Most doctors recommend non-invasive treatment before resorting to surgery. Physical therapy and chiropractor for spinal stenosis combat the conditions that created stenosis in the first place. Not only are these therapeutic methods beneficial during the recovery process but they are an effective alternative to surgery.

A 2015 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine proved that patients who received surgical and non-surgical treatments had virtually the same physical function two years after treatment.

Unlike surgery, chiropractic for spinal stenosis has very few risks. Chiropractors use a multitude of techniques to provide relief. Some methods a chiropractor may administer include gentle spinal manipulations, massage, ultrasound, decompression therapy, exercises, and electrostimulation.

Surgery focuses primarily on the condition that requires treatment, but chiropractic for spinal stenosis looks at the overall condition of the body. If a patient suffers from associated pain as the result of spinal stenosis, a chiropractor will provide treatment to correct the misalignments resulting in additional pain.