Nerve Decompression Procedure

A nerve decompression procedure relieves pain from a pinched nerve. When conservative treatments do not work for nerve pain, a nerve decompression procedure may make a difference. Also known as neuropathy decompression, approximately 75 percent of patients undergoing this procedure receive relief from nerve pain.

Feeling is also restored to the affected area. An experienced spinal surgeon can help to inform you whether a nerve decompression procedure is appropriate for your diagnosis and your options moving forward.

Pinched Nerves

Pinched nerves cause considerable pain. These occur when a nerve receives excess pressure from other bodily tissues including muscle, tendons, ligaments and bone.

Nerves tend to “pinch” and swell in areas that are tight anatomically. The inside of the ankle is one such tight spot. The pressure prevents the nerve from functioning properly. Pinched nerves often respond to conservative treatment, such as rest, exercise, and over-the-counter pain relievers. A second line of therapy includes corticosteroid injections.

If these treatments do not work, the doctor may recommend a nerve decompression procedure. By decompressing the affected nerve, the pressure causing the pain is released.

Conditions Treated by a Procedure

A nerve decompression procedure suits a wide range of neuropathic ailments. Some people are genetically predisposed to nerve damage. Injuries, infections, and tumors may put pressure on nerves. Some of the conditions treated by this procedure include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Chemotherapy-induced neuropathy
  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Facial paralysis
  • Migraines
  • Sciatica
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome

Diabetics undergoing nerve compression procedures significantly reduce the odds of ulceration occurring in a limb or the need for amputation.

Spinal Decompression

Nerve decompression procedures done on the spine are known as laminectomy and laminotomy. The former refers to complete removal of bone – the lamina –  to relieve spinal nerve pressure, while the latter consists of partial bone removal.

Diagnosing the Affected Nerve

The doctor must determine which nerve or nerves are responsible for the pain. The location of symptoms is a clue, but confirmation requires testing. These tests involve:

  • Nerve conduction study – measurement of nerve impulses via electrodes placed on the skin.
  • Electromyography – needle insertion into muscle to detect muscular electrical activity.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging

Nerve Decompression Procedure

Most nerve decompression procedures are minimally invasive surgery. Done on an outpatient basis, the entire process takes about 1.5 to 2 hours. The procedure is generally done under local anesthetic and the patient may or may not require sedation. If muscle cutting is necessary, the patient will receive general anesthesia.

Patients should expect immediate pain relief once the nerve decompression procedure is performed and anesthesia wears off. Sensation should return shortly afterward.


Patients will wear a bandage on the surgical site for a few days following surgery. Aftercare depends on the part of the body involved. Patients undergoing a nerve decompression procedure on the foot may have to stay off the affected foot for several days. The doctor will inform the patient of the length of the rest period for their particular nerve decompression procedure.

Most patients can resume normal activities within two to three weeks after the nerve decompression procedure.

How a Spine Doctor Can Help

If you suffer from nerve-related pain and would like to know whether a nerve decompression procedure would benefit you, call a skilled doctor as soon as possible to make an appointment for an examination.