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Indirect Spinal Decompression

Effective relief from low back and leg pain in people with Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Facts and Information

Does walking trigger low back pain and cramping in your buttocks or legs? Do you lean over your grocery cart while shopping to relieve the pain? If you've experienced these issues, you may have Lumbar Spinal Stenosis.

Lumbar spinal stenosis, also known as LSS, is a common back problem in aging individuals. It usually starts due to arthritis in the spine, bulging discs, or thickened spine ligaments.

With LSS, there is a narrowing of the spinal canal that surrounds your spinal cord. This narrowing creates low back pain and may pinch the nerves that go to the legs. That is why people with LSS often have leg cramps and difficulty walking.

If you are one of the 200 000 American adults suffering from LSS, there is good news! NSPC can offer an Indirect Spinal Decompression to relieve your low back pain and help you walk comfortably again.

What is an Indirect Spinal Decompression?

An Indirect Spinal Decompression is a procedure that treats the root cause of LSS. It removes pressure from the pinched nerves in your spine. As a minimally invasive procedure, it can relieve your low back and leg pain without having to undergo a traditional back surgery.

The Indirect Spinal Decompression is approved by the FDA for people with moderate LSS. These people usually find that their pain improves with sitting or leaning forward. Your pain specialist can explain if an Indirect Spinal Decompression is right for you based on your symptoms and MRI.

How is an Indirect Spinal Decompression Done?

During an Indirect Spinal Decompression, your pain specialist places a small metal device (a spacer) in your low back. The spacer acts like a bridge between two backbones to remove pressure from the pinched nerves.

The procedure is performed in a pain clinic or day surgical center. It takes 30-45 minutes.

You receive relaxing medicine (sedation) through an IV line during the procedure. Typically, general anesthesia is not needed. Your pain specialist uses X-rays guidance to make a small cut in the low back and introduce the spacer.

After a short recovery period,you go home the same day. You may have some soreness from the small stitches in your back for a few days. However, the back and leg pain due to LSS will improve immediately.

The Risks of an Indirect Spinal Decompression

As with most procedures, there is a minor risk of infection and bleeding. More serious (but rare) risks include bone fracture or shifting of the spacer.

Indirect Spinal Decompression is considereda safe procedure. In fact, it is often a great option for older adults with heart or lung problems who can't tolerate general anesthesia.

What Are the Expected Results?

An Indirect Spinal Decompression is considered a highly effective treatment for up to five years. Many patients enjoy pain relief for longer.

Based on studies of patients who underwent Indirect Spinal Decompression with the Vertiflex™ spacer, there was:

  • 66% improvement in back pain and a 75% decrease in leg pain (1)
  • 85% decrease in the use of opioid medications for pain relief (2)

Is There a Longer Lasting Treatment?

An Indirect Spinal Decompression offers long-term pain relief for “moderate” LSS. However, if your LSS worsens, your pain specialist may provide other treatments, like a Minimally Invasive Lumbar Decompression. In time, a traditional back surgery like a Laminectomy may be needed.


1. Nunley PD, Patel VV, Orndorff DG, Lavelle WF, Block JE, Geisler FH. Five-year durability of stand-alone interspinous process decompression for lumbar spinal stenosis. Clin Interv Aging. 2017;12:1409-1417. (N = 88)

2. Nunley PD, Deer TR, Benyamin RM, Staats PS, Block JE. Interspinous process decompression is associated with a reduction in opioid analgesia in patients with lumbar spinal stenosis. J Pain Res. 2018;11:2943-2948. (N = 107)

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