A person's spinal column consists of 33 vertebrae that house and protect the spinal cord. These vertebrae are separated and cushioned by intervertebral disks.
When a disk becomes compressed, it may herniate, or rupture, and press on a nerve where it comes off the spinal cord. This can result in moderate to severe pain. In addition, extra growths of bone known as "spurs" may press against a nerve. If a bone spur is formed in the central canal of the vertebrae, then the spinal cord is also compressed.
A surgical procedure called a lumbar laminectomy can relieve the pressure placed on the injured nerve and spinal cord. During a lumbar laminectomy, a small incision is created in the skin along the lumbar vertebrae. The muscles are separated and the bone is exposed. The "lamina" portion of the vertebrae is slowly and carefully removed, taking pressure off the pinched nerve and spinal cord. The nerve is then pulled gently to the side and the herniated portion of the disk is removed. The nerve is then relieved of all pressure and pain. Muscles are then put back in place and the incision is closed.
There are several potential complications associated with this procedure that should be discussed with a doctor prior to surgery.