Almost everyone experiences back pain at some point in their lives. Back pain can be dull and sporadic or sharp and chronic. The key to relieving back pain is to pinpoint the cause of it. In about 8-11% of people with back pain, the cause is spinal stenosis.
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces within your spine. This narrowing creates less room for the nerves that travel through your spine and results in a pinching or pressing on these nerves. Spinal stenosis is most common in people over 50 but can also affect younger people.
At Douglas. J. Abeles MD & Associates, we specialize in sports medicine, spinal surgery, and general orthopedics. Our team is experienced in diagnosing and treating spinal stenosis. Here’s what we want you to know about this potentially debilitating condition.
Spinal stenosis symptoms
Spinal stenosis most commonly affects your neck, which is called cervical stenosis, or lower back, where it’s called lumbar stenosis. While some people with spinal stenosis don’t have any symptoms, others experience different issues, depending on whether the stenosis is in their neck or spine.
Cervical stenosis symptoms include:
- Numbness or tingling in the arm, hand, leg, or foot
- Weakness in the hand, arm, foot, or leg
- Neck pain
- Bladder or bowel issues, including incontinence
Lumbar stenosis symptoms include:
- Numbness or tingling in the foot or leg
- Weakness in the foot or leg
- Pain in one or both legs
- Back pain
- Sexual dysfunction
Treatment options for spinal stenosis
There is no cure for spinal stenosis. Once the space in your spine starts to narrow, there’s no reversing it. But we have many treatment options to help relieve your pain and discomfort.
Most doctors start with noninvasive approaches such as over-the-counter anti-inflammatories and pain relievers and physical therapy. Another nonsurgical option is a steroid injection to help reduce inflammation and pain, but these injections are a short-term treatment and don’t work for everyone.
If noninvasive treatments and injections don’t help, or your symptoms worsen, the next recommended course of treatment, depending on your symptoms, is a minimally invasive surgery and open surgery. Surgery can help relieve the pressure on the spinal nerves and, subsequently, reduce the pain, tingling, and numbness.
Minimally invasive surgery for spinal stenosis
The goal of surgery for spinal stenosis is decompression. Decompression can be accomplished through open surgery, which is when we open your back and move or cut your muscles to get to the spinal column and remove a bone or bone spur that is putting pressure on your nerve.
In minimally invasive spine surgery, the goal is the same, but we make small incisions instead of an extended open cut down your back. We then insert small instruments that enable us to see your spine and also to move your muscles, without injuring or cutting them, during the procedure.
The goal and results with open surgery and minimally invasive surgery are the same. The benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery include faster recovery, better aesthetic results, less blood loss, and a reduced risk of muscle damage.
For more information on diagnosis and treatment of spinal stenosis, call our Castro Valley, California, office to request an appointment.