Spinal Stenosis — causes and treatment options for severe spinal stenosis
Severe spinal stenosis occurs when the narrowing of the spinal cord (spinal stenosis) becomes so narrow that it compresses the nerve roots in the spinal cord and creates debilitating pain.
Patients who suffer from severe spinal stenosis often endure chronic neck or back pain that prevents them from doing simple activities like walking and standing for long periods of time. If you have been diagnosed with spinal stenosis and have not sought treatment, you may be experiencing these same symptoms. Over time, as the spinal stenosis worsens, you might find yourself unable to participate in your hobbies or perform daily activities. Left untreated, several spinal stenosis can cause a decrease in your quality of life.
Diagnosing spinal stenosis
Diagnosing spinal stenosis can be difficult because it is often caused by other spine conditions. Additionally, severe spinal stenosis typically has more than one cause, or one contributing spine condition that is also severe. In order to accurately diagnose your spinal stenosis and determine the root cause, you will need to schedule an MRI and then a follow-up review with your physician.
There are several contributing factors to severe spinal stenosis. Some of the most common contributing factors are as follows:
- Bulging or herniated disc — A bulging or herniated disc occurs with the disc between two vertebrae in the spine becomes damaged or degenerative and begins to expand beyond its normal parameter. The expansion of a disc can decrease the space between the walls of the spinal canal and the expanded disc in the spine, thus contributing to spinal stenosis.
- Bone spurs — Bones spurs are unexpected growths on the vertebrae or ligaments in the spine. These growths occur when the ligament between the vertebrae begins to deteriorate due to injury or age, and the vertebrae begin to compress against each other. Much like a herniated disc, a bone spur can contribute to spinal stenosis by narrowing the space between the spinal canal walls and the spine.
- Spondylolisthesis — Spondylolisthesis is a spine condition that describes the misalignment of vertebrae due to compression and natural degeneration of the spine. If a vertebrae is misaligned and out of the natural placement of the spine, the space between the spine and the spinal canal walls may diminish, thus contributing to spinal stenosis.
Once your physician decides the cause of your severe spinal stenosis, you can create a treatment plan to help address your chronic pain.
Treatment options for severe spinal stenosis
By the time a person is diagnosed with severe spinal stenosis, he or she typically has already been to the physician numerous times for the condition. Treatments may begin with rest and physical therapy for mild spinal stenosis, and then slowly graduate to prescription pain medications and epidural steroid injections if the pain has not been alleviated.
If your spinal stenosis progresses to a severe state without any lasting pain relief from conservative treatments, you may want to consider a surgical treatment option for your pain. There are two types of surgeries for severe spinal stenosis: traditional open back fusion and minimally invasive stabilization surgery.
Traditional open back fusion requires several days at a hospital for the surgery and recovery, as well as six months to a year of full recovery. During the procedure, the muscles and soft tissues surrounding the spine are cut, causing your recovery time to be longer and your risk of infection to be higher.
At Laser Spine Institute, we offer an effective alternative to traditional open back fusion. Our minimally invasive stabilization surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure at one of our world-class surgery centers across the country. The incision is small, and the surrounding muscles and soft tissues are left undisrupted as we access the spine. Once the diseased component of the spine (this will be determined during your MRI review) is removed, an implant will be inserted to immediately stabilize the spine and help prevent future spinal stenosis.
For more information about the minimally invasive stabilization surgery we offer to treat spinal stenosis, please contact us. Our care team will help you schedule your MRI review with one of our consultants so we can determine your candidacy for one of our procedures.