Made up of collagen and elastic fibers, the arachnoid is a membrane that protects spinal cord nerves. When this membrane becomes inflamed, it’s known as arachnoiditis, an often-painful condition typically characterized by burning and stinging sensations. Some patients also experience related neurological issues. Arachnoiditis is an incurable condition. However, symptoms can be effectively managed for some patients.
The arachnoid may become inflamed because of an injury or following surgery. This membrane may also be irritated by epidural injections or when patients have certain viral or bacterial conditions such as meningitis and tuberculosis. Other possible issues that may contribute to or cause arachnoiditis include:
Specific symptoms associated with arachnoiditis will depend on which part of the spine is affected and which nerves are irritated. Pain, which may become worse with movement, may be felt directly in the affected area or in nearby areas in the lower back, legs, buttocks, thighs, or feet. Some patients describe the pain as being akin to what’s felt with an electrical shock. Additional symptoms may include:
It can be difficult to diagnose arachnoiditis since symptoms may be similar to those associated with other common nerve-related spine-related conditions. Physical examinations often include neurological exams and a check of reflex responses. Diagnostic tests performed typically include CT scans and MRIs. An electromyogram (EMG) may also be done to test nerve function to determine which nerves are affected.
Because there is no cure for arachnoiditis, treatment usually focuses on managing symptoms and easing discomfort as much as possible. Treatment plans are similar to those recommended for people with chronic pain, which usually means a combination of:
*Opioids for pain management purposes should be used with caution due to the risk of addiction.
Surgery is not a common recommendation for arachnoiditis treatment. There is some debate over whether or not it would even be helpful. Clinical trials are needed to determine if pain management techniques such as steroid injections and electrical stimulation might ease discomfort. There are no standard recommendations for prevention. However, since arachnoiditis is sometimes a complication of minimally invasive spine surgery, Los Angeles patients can minimize their odds of experiencing the condition by exploring all available non-surgical treatments before considering surgery or opting for less-invasive procedures.
If you are experiencing discomfort in your spine and want to find relief, make sure to schedule an appointment with a trusted Los Angeles spine surgeon from The Spine Institute. Give us a call today at 310-828-7757, and take the first steps toward living a pain-free life.