As we age, our spines change. These normal wear-and-tear effects of aging can lead to narrowing of the spinal canal. This condition is called spinal stenosis. Your spine is made up of small bones, called vertebrae, which are stacked on top of one another. Spinal stenosis occurs when the space around the spinal cord narrows. This puts pressure on the spinal cord and the spinal nerve roots, and may cause pain, numbness, or weak-ness in the legs.The flexor tendon can become irritated as it slides through the tendon sheath tunnel in the palm. As it becomes more and more irritated, the tendon may thicken and nodules may form, making its passage through the tunnel more difficult.
People with spinal stenosis may or may not have back pain, depending on the degree of arthritis that has developed. Burning pain in buttocks or legs (sciatica) is common. The pain may be described as an ache or a burning feeling. It typically starts in the area of the buttocks and radiates down the leg. As it progresses, it can result in pain in the foot or numbness or tingling in buttocks or legs. Once the pressure reaches a critical level, weakness can occur in one or both legs.
After discussing your symptoms and medical history, your Orthopedic Clinic spine specialist will examine your back. This will include looking at your back and pushing on different areas to see if it hurts. You may have to bend for-ward, backward, and side-to-side to look for limitations or pain.
Tests which may help your doctor confirm your diagnosis include:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Computed tomography (CT) scans
Nonsurgical treatment options focus on restoring function and relieving pain. Although nonsurgical methods do not improve the narrowing of the spinal canal, many people report that these treatments do help relieve symptoms. Non-surgical treatments include:
- Lumbar traction
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- epidural steroid injections
Surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis is generally reserved for pa-tients who have poor quality of life due to pain and weakness. Pa-tients may complain of difficulty walking for extended periods of time. This is often the reason that patients consider surgery.
There are two main surgical options to treat lumbar spinal stenosis: laminectomy and spinal fusion. Both options can result in excellent pain relief. Be sure to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both with your Orthopedic Clinic doctor.
Your physical therapist may show you exercises to help you build and maintain strength, endurance, and flexibility for spinal stability. Some of these exercises will help strengthen your abdominal muscles, which help support your back. Your physical therapist will create an individualized program, taking into consideration your health and history.
Most people can go back to a desk job within a few days to a few weeks after surgery. They may return to normal activities after 2 to 3 months. Overall, the results of laminectomy with or without spinal fusion for lumbar stenosis are good to excellent in the majority of patients. Patients tend to see more improvement of leg pain than back pain. Most patients are able to resume a normal lifestyle after a period of recovery from surgery.
Minimally Invasive Decompression
The spine specialists at The Orthopedic Clinic are trained in minimally invasive decompression procedures that can be per-formed using smaller incisions. When using such minimally invasive techniques, there is less injury to the surrounding soft tissues, and recovery may be quicker. With these minimally invasive techniques, surgeons rely on microscopes to see the area for surgery. The advantages of minimally invasive procedures include reduced hospital stays and recovery periods.