Within the spine there are open spaces, and when these begin to shrink in size, nerves can become pinched resulting in debilitating pain in the lower back and even the legs. Spinal stenosis can occur due to age as the spine begins to narrow and when that extra space is lost, pain surfaces.
When the nerves are compressed in the spinal canal, pain becomes present in the patient. Compressed nerves can be a result from:
- bulging discs
- tissues which have thickened
- arthritic spurs
Symptoms present themselves with spinal stenosis when walking or standing in the form of numbness or tingling. Walking may become more difficult as spinal stenosis progresses as the spine begins to lose its curve. Some patients report that symptoms can be alleviated when they bend forward or sit down but resurface upon standing. If this condition is left untreated, permanent damage or injury can occur. Spinal stenosis typically occurs among older adults, and arthritis and injuries can also cause the spinal cord to narrow.
How Is Spinal Stenosis Treated?
Medications such as anti- inflammatories are often suggested as the first line of treatment. When symptoms are not managed with just the medication, cortisone injections are suggested as they can provide quick but short term relief for the pain. Physical therapy is also often recommended for spinal stenosis patients as building strength in the spine is crucial for healing and managing pain.
If preliminary treatments do not provide relief, surgery may be the next step.
To treat spinal stenosis, the spine must become decompressed. A laminectomy is done to relieve the pressure off of the spinal cord by removing the bony lamina and thickened ligaments in the spinal canal. By removing these parts, extra space is created which will help manage the symptoms the patient is feeling. When there is disc degeneration or pinching of the nerves, a foraminotomy approach may be used to provide the patient relief from their pain in the lower back and legs.
When the spine is unstable, a spinal fusion is performed by bringing the bones together with the use of screws to allow for stability in the spine. This type of procedure may also include some techniques found in a laminectomy. This type of surgery can be time consuming as there are many factors involved. First, a bone is obtained from either inside the body or from a bone back and used as a bridge which ultimately jump starts the process of bone growth. The use of screws and plates are used to hold the temporary bone in its place until the growth of the new bone begins.
Is This Surgery Safe?
With any surgery, risks are common and those are bleeding, the potential for stiffness and possible injury to the nerve.
What To Do Before Surgery
Preparing for surgery is never easy as substantial work goes into ensuring you have a full recovery following surgery. If you are a smoker, finding ways to quit is a good start in preparation for your surgery. Also, any non-essential medication should be discontinued and replaced with natural supplements to avoid complications with anesthesia.
Your physicians will prescribe you with anti inflammatories to help manage the pain as well as pain medication. Expect to work with a physical therapist shortly after surgery as to avoid the body from stiffening up and cause pain. Swelling is also a concern so walking will also be suggested to help minimize any swelling possibilities.
Adding some hot showers to your daily routine may also help to reduce pain following surgery as will ice.
Spinal decompression surgery is extremely effective but recovery is not a sprint to the finish but rather a slow and steady pace. Patients can expect to see results within three months following surgery and can begin working their everyday regular activities back into their life with little to no pain.
If you or a loved one suffer from spinal stenosis and medications and therapy are still leaving you in pain, contact our AICA orthopedics team as we can discuss spinal stenosis surgery or other options that best fit your needs. Call us today at (404) 855-2141.