Your body is susceptible to a multitude of changes as you grow older, and many are unwelcome. Degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis and osteoporosis affect millions, causing pain and limited mobility.
Another condition that’s linked with how many trips around the sun you’ve taken is spinal stenosis, when your spinal canal narrows and presses on the nerves in your spinal cord. About 250,000 to 500,000 Americans live with spinal stenosis pain, limited mobility, and other difficult-to-endure symptoms.
The openings at the center of each of your vertebrae (the foramina) form your spinal canal, the tube-like space that houses the nerves affected by spinal stenosis. Nerve compression and pain develop when your spinal canal contracts. In this post, we break down the debilitating symptoms of spinal stenosis, who’s at risk, and whether there’s a cure for the condition.
Dr. Benjamin Cohen offers advanced treatment for spinal stenosis and a range of other painful conditions. His approach is conservative to start, but if those treatments are unsuccessful, Dr. Cohen may need to perform a surgical procedure.
The basics of spinal stenosis
Narrowing can occur in your spinal canal or in the foramina, where your nerves exit. Spinal stenosis patients most often have either lumbar stenosis (in the lower back) or cervical stenosis (in the neck). When stenosis inflammation and aggravation of the nerves occurs, it leads to:
- Lower back or neck pain
- Numbness in your arms or legs
- TIngling in your arms or legs
- Weakness throughout your arm or leg muscles
- Pain that runs the length of your legs or arms
- Leg cramps
- Foot numbness and limpness (with lumbar stenosis)
- Burning sciatica pain that goes down your buttocks and legs (with lumbar stenosis)
- Neck pain (with cervical stenosis)
- Hand function loss (with cervical stenosis)
- Balance problems (with cervical stenosis)
Severe compression of the nerves at the base of your spinal cord, known as the cauda equina, can cause bladder and bowel problems, debilitating lower back pain, and a complete loss of feeling in your legs.
In order for Dr. Cohen to make an accurate diagnosis of spinal stenosis, he speaks with you in detail about your history of pain and other symptoms, the severity of your discomfort, and your overall health history, and he may order imaging tests to find out more.
You’re more at risk for stenosis if you’re over 50, female, or have had a spinal injury, tumor, or past surgery. Rheumatoid arthritis and having a naturally narrow spinal canal can also contribute.
Once Dr. Cohen makes a definitive diagnosis, he typically starts your treatment conservatively with:
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Physical therapy to increase strength and flexibility and to stabilize the spine
- Exercises that stretch the spine, relieve pain, and increase mobility
- Steroid injections
Unfortunately, these treatments aren't successful for all spinal stenosis sufferers. If your pain and other symptoms persist, Dr. Cohen may recommend decompression surgery.
Surgical solutions for spinal stenosis
Dr. Cohen offers multiple surgical procedures, depending on the origin of your pain. These include:
1. Spinal fusion
Dr. Cohen fuses two vertebrae together to stabilize your spine using hardware or a bone graft. This is often done when he performs other types of spinal stenosis surgery as well.
2. Decompressive laminectomy
Dr. Cohen removes the back portion of your affected vertebra (lamina) to relieve compression and pain and open up more space.
Dr. Cohen enlarges the opening where your nerves exit your spine.
Dr. Cohen trims excess material from your herniated disc.
Though there’s technically no cure for spinal stenosis, some individuals get welcome relief from the conservative treatments mentioned above. Surgery can relieve pain and restore mobility for those who need another option.
No matter which procedure he performs, Dr. Cohen uses minimally invasive surgical techniques whenever possible. This procedure is far less traumatic to your body than traditional open surgery because rather than a large incision, only one or two much smaller ones are required.
Dr. Cohen places specially designed surgical instruments into thin tubes inserted through the smaller incisions. Additional tools are available that help him see a brightly lit, enlarged view of your spinal tissues to ensure surgical precision.
Minimally invasive surgery offers significant advantages over open surgery, including faster healing and less bleeding, scarring, and pain.
Learn more about help for spinal stenosis pain and limited movement by calling our office at 516-246-5008 to book an in-person or telemedicine visit, or contact us through our website.