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Spinal Stenosis Treatment Options: Is it Time for Surgery?

Aug 3, 2022

The spine is an anatomical construct of bone enclosing the spinal cord and the fluid surrounding it. The spine is not a unitary skeletal formation but a collection of bones, muscles, tendons, and other tissues. These bones are separated by tiny gaps where nerves thread through the spine. When the spaces within your spine narrow down, they will put extra pressure on the nerves. This condition is known as spinal stenosis.

Seeing as how it’s a condition that won’t go away on its own, it will require spinal stenosis treatment. This can consist of various non-invasive treatments but, in some cases, surgery may be required. In order to prepare you for every eventuality, here’s what you need to know about the symptoms, causes, and other factors affecting your spinal stenosis condition. This will help you figure out whether you need to resolve this issue surgically (but as always, please consult with a spine specialist).

What Are Common Spinal Stenosis Symptoms?

In order to understand what is spinal stenosis from the perspective of the patient, it’s vital that we cover its symptoms and manifestations. One of the biggest problems with self-diagnosing spinal stenosis (or even suspecting that this is the problem) lies in the fact that some people don’t have any symptoms.

When it comes to regular stenosis (the one with clear symptoms) there are two types, based on the area in which it occurs. These types are:

  • Cervical stenosis (in and near your neck)
  • Lumbar stenosis (lower back)

While both are likely, lumbar stenosis is more common.

Both the symptoms and spinal stenosis treatment vary based on the type/affected area.

For instance, cervical stenosis symptoms are:

  • Numbness in hand, arm, foot, or leg
  • Weakness in hand, arm, foot, or leg
  • Neck pain
  • Balance and walking troubles
  • Bowel or bladder dysfunction (only in the most extreme of cases)

On the other hand, when it comes to the symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis, there are:

  • Numbness in a foot or leg
  • Tingling in a foot or leg
  • Cramping in both legs
  • Pain in both legs
  • Back pain

Now, the biggest problem with the majority of these symptoms is that they may be caused by a number of other conditions. So, spinal stenosis might not be the first condition that you’ll assume.

What Is the Main Cause of Spinal Stenosis? 

The list of causes is also quite lengthy. Most commonly, it’s either overgrowth of spinal bones or a herniated disk. However, there’s always an off chance that your spinal stenosis is caused by a tumor. Anything that grows will increase the pressure in this area and tumors do have this nasty habit.

While spinal injuries are just as likely to cause spinal stenosis, it’s relatively easy to diagnose.

Moreover, there are not that many risk factors with the two most prominent ones being age (over 50 you’re more likely to suffer from spinal stenosis) and genetic predispositions. This doesn’t mean that you can’t suffer from this issue even if you don’t fall into any of these risky demographics.

What Are Non-invasive Therapy Options for Spinal Stenosis? 

If the problem is not that serious, your doctor may recommend some pain relievers or even antidepressants. A nightly dose of medication such as amitriptyline can do wonders when it comes to easing chronic pain.

One of the biggest problems with suffering pain is the fact that you’ll instinctively stop making movements that cause this pain. This makes muscles and tendons in the area dormant, which makes the situation even worse. This is why spinal stenosis stretches and spinal stenosis exercises are so important. In general, physical therapy is a common way to alleviate pain. Also, it will help counter some side-effects of spinal stenosis by building up your strength and endurance, as well as helping you improve your balance.

Irritated and swollen nerve roots may be treated with steroid injections. While this is not a completely non-invasive procedure, it’s definitely less invasive than surgery. An injection will reduce inflammation and alleviate some of the pain but it won’t always help.

How To Know You Need Spinal Stenosis Surgery? 

If none other method helps or if you’re currently disabled by the symptoms, the best spinal stenosis treatment method might be surgery. Now, there are several different types of surgical procedures that may be available. These are:

  • Laminectomy: Easing the pressure on the nerves by removing the back part of the lamina of the affected vertebra.
  • Laminotomy: Removing the portion of the lamina. Sometimes, this involves making a tiny hole through which some of the pressure will be relieved.
  • Laminoplasty: Creating a hinge on the lamina, which opens up the space within the spinal canal.
  • Minimally invasive surgery: Removing lamina in a way that the fusion will not be necessary.

When it comes to the surgery for spinal stenosis, it’s important to start out with the right diagnosis, and an experienced surgeon on your side. The diagnosis in question may even determine the procedure, seeing as how laminoplasty, for instance, is performed only on the vertebrae on the neck. These two factors can drastically reduce the risk of anything going wrong. They also increase the chance of full recovery.

Wrap Up

Chronic pain is more than just an inconvenience. It will restrict your movements, destroy your mood, and overall ruin your quality of life. When this chronic pain stems from spinal stenosis, however, there are so many things you can do to end this suffering. Still, seeing as how the spine is a vital part of your body, it’s essential that your spinal stenosis treatment is prescribed by professionals of the utmost standing in the field. The diagnosis needs to be accurate and the right course of action determined by a specialist.

In order to learn more consult with our spine doctors and surgeons at the Orthopedic Institute of NJ.

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