Spinal Stenosis and Neuropathy: The Connection and Treatment Options
Spinal stenosis and neuropathy can be connected to one another, meaning that treating these conditions can be interlinked. In the most basic terms, spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal or of the neural foramina (the spaces where nerve roots exit the spinal column to innervate the other areas of the body). This narrowing can occur at any level of the spine, placing pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots, which can cause numerous problems in turn. One of the many problems that can develop due to spinal narrowing is neuropathy.
The relationship between spinal stenosis and neuropathy
Neuropathy is defined as damage to the nerves of the body, but it usually refers to harm done to the peripheral nerves that are responsible for transmitting sensation, motor signals and autonomic signals throughout the body. In this context, a more accurate term for “neuropathy” is “peripheral neuropathy,” meaning the damage is done to the peripheral nervous system, which encompasses all the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. Peripheral nerves control the perception of touch and heat, muscle movement and involuntary functions like blood pressure, so anything preventing these nerves from functioning properly can mean a drastic change in everyday life. Peripheral neuropathy is sometimes caused by spinal stenosis, particularly in the lumbar region of the spine, where it most commonly affects the sciatic nerve. This nerve is the largest in the human body, innervating areas from the lower back to the feet. When damage occurs to the sciatic nerve, it may appear as pain, tingling, numbness, throbbing or weakness, often traveling along the course of the nerve down the body.
Surgery options for spinal stenosis patients
To address the pain, loss of sensation and other issues that can arise from spinal stenosis and resulting peripheral neuropathy, patients may begin by starting a regimen of conservative treatments prescribed by their physicians. Often, these methods include applying heat/cold therapy, completing low-impact exercises, restricting activity and taking medication to alleviate pain and inflammation. In many cases, conservative treatment proves effective in providing relief, but in the instances when they don’t, surgery may be recommended. No matter what type of spinal stenosis surgery is performed, the aim remains removing the pressure placed on the affected nerves. This can be achieved by removing a portion of the roof of a vertebra, or lamina, during a laminotomy or through widening the foramina by clearing out bone spurs and other obstructions. In some cases, removal of a severely damaged disc followed by spinal fusion may also be recommended to lend added stability to the spinal column.
All of these procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis by the experienced surgeons at Laser Spine Institute using minimally invasive techniques at our state-of-the-art facilities. To learn more about the surgical procedures we perform to address peripheral neuropathy and spinal stenosis, contact us today. You can also inquire about the no-cost MRI review* that we offer and to see if you’re a candidate for one of our procedures.