Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal that often occurs as people age. It is most commonly seen in the lower back, or lumbar region, but it can also develop along the neck, or cervical spine. The decreased space can be caused by a number of conditions including osteoporosis, degenerative disc disease, and bulging or herniated discs. For the most part, the symptoms of spinal stenosis can be managed with conservative treatments and don’t require spine surgery.
Many people find relief from their discomfort with over-the-counter or prescription medications. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen can be obtained without a prescription, but a physician should first be consulted because the drugs may interfere with a patient’s current treatment regimen. For more severe pain, doctors often prescribe narcotic pills and muscle relaxants. Some health care providers have found that antidepressants and anti-seizure medications help alleviate discomfort in some individuals.
Another effective pain control treatment is steroid injections. During this procedure, a physician administers a steroid solution directly into a targeted area of the spinal canal. The medication is applied directly onto the affected nerve roots and inflamed tissue. Patients usually receive the treatment a few times a year.
Inactivity tends to worsen the symptoms of spinal stenosis, so it is important for patients to engage in regular, physician-approved activity. Many people benefit from formal, physical therapy programs where the exercises are individually prescribed and modified as the person progresses through treatment.
If people’s symptoms are severe enough to keep them from being able to perform the activities of daily living or properly care for themselves, surgery may be recommended. The type of procedure depends on the aggravating factors in the spinal canal, and the most commonly performed operations for treating spinal stenosis include lumbar laminotomy or laminectomy, or foraminotomy or foraminectomy.
If large enough portions of the vertebrae need to be excised, the initial procedure may be followed by spinal fusion to provide adequate support of the vertebral column. When the operative area along the spine is small, the procedure may be able to be performed via minimally invasive spine surgery.
For a second opinion or to learn more about possible treatment options, call The Spine Institute Center at (310) 828-7757 and request an in-person consultation with an experienced spine surgeon.