When extreme and unnatural pressure is exerted on the lower back (lumbar) portion of the spinal cord—often a result of an abnormal disc, bone spur or damaged ligament—the nerves adjacent to it can become irritated and cause intense pain the lower back, buttocks and legs as well as varying degrees of weakness and numbness. And if that pressure is severe, an individual might even experience partial paralysis as well as bladder and bowel impairments, in which case lumbar decompression surgery may be required.

Such surgeries aimed at decompressing the spinal cord and impacted nerves may take several forms depending on the stability of the spine and the level of compression. Among these procedures are a discectomy, where a portion of a damaged disc is removed; a laminotomy or laminectomy, where the lamina (the rear portion of bone that lies over the spinal cord) is reduced in size or removed altogether; a foraminotomy or foraminectomy, used to increase the space around the nerves of the spinal cord and therefore decrease pressure on those nerves; the removal of bone spurs of osteophytes, which can press against nerves; and a corpectomy, or the complete removal of a portion of a damaged or deteriorating vertebra.