Managing Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal due to excess bone or tissue growth in the lower back. The overgrowth of bone and tissue can cause compression on nearby nerves and cause pain, weakness, and numbness in the back, buttocks, and legs. Without a cure for spinal stenosis, patients must find nonsurgical ways to prevent surgery but also be aware of the signs of when surgery is necessary.
Depending on the severity of pain and discomfort, spinal stenosis symptoms can be treated with nonsurgical therapies to avoid surgery. For instance, minor lifestyle changes such as using a walker or stool instead of standing up can relieve back pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can alleviate lower back pain.
Physical therapy can ease tight muscles and discomfort. Approved stretches and exercises help stabilize and strengthen the spine while retaining flexibility. Steroid injections near the affected nerve root are short-term solutions to inflammation and pain when other nonsurgical treatments have failed.
When is surgery an option?
A doctor may recommend spinal stenosis surgery for several reasons, including if the pain and discomfort affect a patient’s daily activities and performance. When all other treatments have failed consistently for a few months, surgery can be an option. A loss of bowel and bladder control, as well as an increasing inability to walk normally, are causes for surgery.
Removing bone, spurs, and ligaments
One of the most common types of spinal stenosis surgeries is decompressive laminectomy surgery. During a laminectomy, a surgeon removes the rear portion of vertebrae and bone spurs or ligaments pressing on nerves.
Fusing spinal bones
Spinal fusing can be a complementary treatment to a laminectomy. A surgeon connects vertebrae to stabilize the spine, albeit, the connected joints won’t be able to move. The surgery aims to reduce compression on nerves that can cause discomfort.
Giving nerve roots more space
A foraminotomy is a type of spinal stenosis surgery that expands the passageway where the nerve roots exit out to the rest of the body. During the operation, a spine surgeon removes bone or tissue that blocks the passageway and presses on the nerve root.
A comprehensive treatment plan
Spinal stenosis surgery does carry some risks, including infection, nerve injury, and bleeding, but provides a longer-term solution than nonsurgical treatment. Patients can consult a doctor as soon as symptoms develop to avoid surgery for as long as possible. When back pain becomes unbearable, however, spinal stenosis surgery can decompress the spinal canal in the long run. For more information regarding treatment options for spinal stenosis, speak with a pain management specialist or spine surgeon.