Stenosis of the spine is a condition where the open spaces in the spine narrow, resulting in pressure on spinal nerves and the spinal cord. Most patients experience pain in the lower back or the neck from stenosis. This condition is most prevalent in men and women over the age of 50 and people who have suffered a spinal injury. When cases become severe and all other treatment options have failed, Dr. Solomon Kamson may recommend spinal surgery.
When a patient comes into the surgeon’s office, there are several clues that will help the doctor diagnose spinal stenosis. The most obvious sign is back pain, but there are several others, including numbness, weak muscles, and issues with excretory functions. Tingling may occur in the legs, feet, arms, or hands due to narrowing in the neck. When there are compressed nerves in the lower back (lumbar spine), symptoms include cramps or pain in the legs when standing up or walking.
The treatment for stenosis depends on the location and severity of the problem. For mild cases, patients can take ibuprofen or naproxen, which are available over the counter. Antidepressants can ease chronic pain and muscle relaxants may be prescribed to stop back spasms. Medications that are meant to prevent seizures can help to ease pain from nerve damage. For cases of extreme, debilitating pain, doctors may prescribe opioids such as oxycodone, but these can be habit forming, so this may be a last resort.
Physical therapy is another option that can help to build strength, stabilize the spine, and improve balance. Going to therapy on a regular basis may help a patient avoid surgery. For less severe cases, patients may be told to swim or ride an exercise bike for non-stressful aerobic activity.
Some patients may be fitted with a lumbar brace to give more support to the spine. Steroid injections can help reduce swelling and pain around the nerve roots. However, they weaken the bones, so they can only be done a few times. For those who are into alternative medicine, going to a chiropractor or a acupuncturist may be treatment options.
Spinal Stenosis Surgery
Surgery is usually the last option when it comes to treating stenosis. It can help people who are no longer able to function and are considered disabled. It is also an option for patients who are in very good health besides the stenosis. Pressure is taken off of the spinal cord through the removal of the lamina, which is the back part of the vertebrae. When surgery is successful, the alignment of the spine will be restored and the spine will be stronger.
Risks of Spinal Stenosis Surgery
Although the surgery helps reduce the pain for many patients, there are also several risks involved. Every surgery comes with the risk of infection. There is also the chance that the patient could get a blood clot or suffer more nerve damage. The risk of getting a tear in the spinal membrane also exists.
If the stenosis is causing a patient problems with basic activities like walking or going to the bathroom, then surgery is inevitable. In most cases, surgery helps people gain a better quality of life. However, since stenosis is a degenerative condition, the surgery will not completely cure it, and the patient will continue to have some numbness or pain at some point in the future.