The word “Stenosis” means narrowing, and refers to a condition where the space around the spinal column begins to tighten, which can cause pressure that pinches the spinal nerve. Patients with Stenosis can experience numbness and tingling, pain, and muscle weakness, which can worsen over time.
Causes of Stenosis
In the spine, arthritis can result as the vertebral discs degenerate and lose their flexibility, causing the joints in the spine to collapse and thicken. Osteoarthritis combined with normal wear and tear commonly lead to Spinal Stenosis. Stenosis may sometimes result from spinal injuries or tumors within the spinal column.
Types of Stenosis
Neurologists classify the different types of Spinal Stenosis by the affected location within the spinal column. Cervical Stenosis occurs when the upper area of the spinal column begins to narrow, and affects the neck area. In Lumbar Stenosis, the most common form, the narrowing occurs in the lower back. Patients who suffer from stenosis do not always suffer from back pain. Stenosis sometimes presents as numbness or a burning sensation in the buttocks or legs. Stenosis may also weaken the muscles in the legs, resulting in difficulty walking or “foot drop”.
How Do Neurosurgeons Treat Spinal Stenosis?
Conservative Treatments for Spinal Stenosis
If a Neurosurgeon determines that they can deal with Stenosis conservatively, they may prescribe steroid injections, self care tips and physical therapy. Anti-inflammatory medication works well to reduce the symptoms of stenosis, as they dissipate the pressure on the central spinal cord. The physician may monitor the patient with follow-up appointments to ensure the condition does not continue to progress. If the Stenosis continues to constrict the spinal nerves, your Neurosurgeon may recommend a Laminectomy.
Surgical Treatment for Spinal Stenosis
If Neurosurgeons determine a patients Stenosis serious enough for surgical intervention, patients may consider undergoing a Laminectomy, sometimes referred to as a “decompression”. This surgery involves cutting out a section of bone from the back of the affected spinal vertebra, relieving pressure from the spinal canal and allowing the nerves more room to move.
If arthritis has caused the spine to degenerate to instability, the neurosurgeon may also perform spinal fusion. In a fusion, the surgeon uses a small metal bracket and screws to fuse two of the spinal vertebrae together, stopping any movement that would cause further pain.
Recovery from Spinal Stenosis Surgery
Upon waking from a Laminectomy, Patients should feel immediate relief from a majority of the initial pain. If all goes well, Patients will most likely go home from the hospital the same day. The Physician may prescribe physical therapy and post operative appointments to strengthen patients spine. If given a Cervical Laminectomy, the Neurosurgeon may ask patients to wear a neck brace during recovery. Physicians clear most patients to drive within 1-2 weeks after surgery, and patients may resume non-strenuous work within the first month.