The ligaments around your spine serve as strong foundational supports and hold your vertebrae in place. Unfortunately, it’s common for these ligaments to thicken due to age-related degeneration. The resulting pain can affect your upper or lower back.
This ligament thickening means that there’s much less room for the nerves that run through your spinal canal. When they’re compressed and pinched because of this crowding, you’re likely to suffer symptoms of spinal stenosis. Though other conditions are linked to spinal stenosis, thickened ligaments is the main cause.
As a board-certified neurosurgeon with expertise in spinal repair, Dr. Benjamin Cohen treats many patients with spinal stenosis, in addition to offering other services. He’s dedicated to relieving your pain and improving your mobility, and employs treatments that range from conservative approaches to minimally invasive surgery.
The discomfort caused by thickened ligaments
When you suffer from spinal stenosis, your symptoms include not only lumbar or thoracic back pain — lower back and neck pain, respectively — you may also experience pain and discomfort in areas that surprise you, including cramps in your legs, tingling and numbness that moves down your arms and legs, and even arm or leg muscle weakness.
A proven surgical treatment option for spinal stenosis
Dr. Cohen typically starts with conservative treatments when he considers solutions for spinal stenosis. These include a customized exercise plan, physical therapy, and measures such as taking anti-inflammatory medications or getting steroid injections, though the relief is only temporary.
If your symptoms don’t abate, Dr. Cohen may tell you that surgery is your best bet. Spinal fusion is a minimally invasive procedure that does something major: It connects two or more vertebrae that are next to each other, rendering them stationary and restoring the stability that your thickened ligaments stole.
How is spinal fusion performed?
When Dr. Cohen performs spinal fusion, he puts a bone graft on the vertebrae he identifies as needing repair, and uses metal hardware to ensure that the graft stays in place next to your vertebrae, so the two fuse together. The graft stimulates growth, and the end result is one strong bone.
Another interesting fact: Your graft can either come from bone material harvested from your hip bone, from a bone bank (bone given by living donors), or Dr. Cohen can place a ceramic or metal fusion cage where needed to hold space between your vertebrae so bone can grow through it to become part of your spine.
Dr. Cohen is highly skilled in performing minimally invasive surgery, which he does whenever possible. It requires no cutting of muscles and only one or two small incisions.
Minimally invasive procedures are done with the aid of specially designed tools that fit through thin tubes placed in your incisions. Then Dr. Cohen uses a special microscope or endoscope equipped with magnifying capabilities and bright light that enable him to clearly see your targeted spinal tissues.
As compared to traditional open surgery, minimally invasive procedures are associated with faster healing, less pain, bleeding, and scarring, and a reduced infection risk.
We know that your quality of life can be greatly compromised by the pain and limitations that accompany spinal stenosis. Call our office to schedule a consultation about spinal fusion or reach out to us through our website, and remember that you can visit our office either in person or via a telehealth visit.