Surgical treatments for spinal stenosis include laminectomy, discectomy, and spinal fusion. A doctor may recommend surgery for spinal stenosis in severe cases or if nonsurgical methods do not help alleviate symptoms.

Spinal stenosis is a condition that causes the spaces in the spine to become narrow. This can put pressure on the spinal cord. When the spaces in the spine narrow, it can create pressure on the spinal cord and any nearby nerve tissue.

Read on to learn about the different types of surgery for spinal stenosis. This article also discusses the benefits of surgery for spinal stenosis, possible risks, and more.

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If spinal stenosis is severe, or if symptoms are worsening, a doctor may recommend surgery to treat the condition.


A laminectomy is a surgical procedure that involves removing the posterior portion of the vertebral bone called the lamina.

During a laminectomy, a surgeon may remove:

  • bone
  • bone spurs
  • ligaments

A laminectomy is one of the most common surgical procedures for decompressing the spinal canal.

A surgeon will perform this procedure as either open surgery or minimally invasive surgery. The surgeon can advise on which procedure is right based on the person’s individual circumstances.


A surgeon may also carry out a discectomy during a laminectomy. They may recommend this procedure if a disc in the spine is applying pressure to the spinal cord or nerve roots.

During a discectomy, a surgeon removes part or all of the disc to relieve this pressure.

Spinal fusion

Spinal fusion is another possible surgical treatment for spinal stenosis.

During spinal fusion surgery, a surgeon will fuse together two or more vertebrae. This ensures that they heal into one single bone that is solid and strong.

A surgeon may use bone grafts or metal devices to fuse the bones together.

This procedure can reduce pain when moving and also help restore stability.

Learn more about treatments for spinal stenosis.

A doctor may recommend spinal stenosis surgery if the nonsurgical treatments or medications do not help.

A surgeon will consider the following factors when deciding whether surgery is suitable:

  • the amount of pain the person experiences
  • any effect nonsurgical treatments have had on their symptoms
  • other medical conditions the person may have
  • the person’s overall health
  • whether the anatomy of the person’s spine is suitable for surgery

A person can contact their doctor for advice if they wish to discuss whether they are a suitable candidate for spinal stenosis surgery.

Spinal stenosis surgery can help relieve pressure on the spinal cord and may also restore spinal alignment.

Spinal stenosis surgery tends to provide good to excellent results for most people. People with spinal stenosis often experience an improvement in the symptoms of their condition after surgery.

Most people can resume their regular lifestyle after spinal stenosis surgery. However, they may need to take precautions, such as avoiding strenuous activity. A person’s doctor can advise on any lifestyle changes they may need to make after surgery.

When preparing for spinal surgery, a person should try to be as active as they can be. They should also aim to eat a healthy, balanced diet and get enough quality sleep. Additionally, it is best to avoid excessive alcohol consumption.

If a person smokes, they should aim to stop as soon as possible. This is because smoking can increase a person’s risk of breathing problems during surgery. Ingesting nicotine through cigarette smoke can also increase a person’s risk of serious complications after surgery, such as wound infections and delays in bone healing.

A person should discuss any medications they are taking with their doctor or surgeon. This is because some medications may affect the surgery. These include aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

If a person has diabetes, it is important to ensure that they are able to manage the condition effectively before surgery.

In some cases, it may be beneficial for a person to lose weight. Their doctor can advise on whether this is something they recommend.

A person may need help with certain activities after spinal surgery. This means that before their procedure, they should make arrangements to receive help with things such as:

  • washing
  • dressing
  • cleaning
  • doing laundry
  • shopping

A person may also not be able to drive after their procedure. They should arrange transport to and from the hospital before they undergo the surgery.

After spinal stenosis surgery, a person may have to wear a brace or corset to help support their back.

A surgeon will often encourage the person to begin walking as soon as they feel able to, as this can help their recovery.

In some cases, a person may require physical therapy to help strengthen their back. During physical therapy, a person may carry out exercises to help build and maintain:

  • strength
  • endurance
  • flexibility

This can help make their spine more stable and support the back.

Most people can return to a desk job within a few days or weeks after the procedure. It may take around 2–3 months after spinal stenosis surgery for a person to resume all of their regular activities.

If an older individual has spinal stenosis surgery, they may spend time in a rehabilitation facility after their procedure before going home.

As with any surgery, there are possible risks of spinal stenosis. These include:

  • bleeding
  • infection
  • blood clots
  • reactions to anesthesia
  • a tear in the sac that covers the nerves
  • bones that do not fuse and heal properly after a spinal fusion procedure
  • failure of the screws and rods after a spinal fusion procedure
  • injury to the nerves
  • instability of the spine, which might require additional surgery

A person can discuss the possible risks of the procedure with their doctor or surgeon.

Here are some frequently asked questions about spinal stenosis.

How long does it take to recover from spinal stenosis without surgery?

It may not be possible to cure spinal stenosis without surgery. However, nonsurgical treatments can help manage symptoms. For some people, surgery may cure the condition, but this is not always possible. A person’s doctor or surgeon can advise on whether they feel surgery will allow them to completely recover from spinal stenosis.

However, as the condition can worsen in severity over time, a person may need surgical intervention in the advanced stages.

Is spinal stenosis surgery serious?

Spinal stenosis surgery is generally a serious type of surgery. In most cases, a surgeon will perform a laminectomy as open surgery. This means they will operate through a single, larger incision to access the person’s spine.

In some cases, however, a person may undergo minimally invasive surgery. During this procedure, a surgeon will operate on the spine through several smaller incisions.

What is the best treatment for spinal stenosis?

Initial treatment of spinal stenosis aims to manage symptoms and can include medications, such as NSAIDs and physical therapy.

If a person continues to experience pain after these initial treatments or their condition begins to progress, they may require surgery. Surgery can help relieve compression in the spine and reduce symptoms.

Spinal stenosis is a condition that causes the spaces in the spine to become narrow. Spinal stenosis can put pressure on the spinal cord and any nearby nerve tissue.

Surgical treatments for spinal stenosis include laminectomy, discectomy, and spinal fusion. These treatments can help increase space inside the spine to relieve pressure. They can also help to stabilize the spine.

Other treatments to help manage symptoms of spinal stenosis include medications, physical therapy, supports, and alternative therapies.