Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Lumbar spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the tight canal that surrounds the spinal chord and the nerve roots leaving the spinal chord. Spinal stenosis is a term that refers to a general narrowing of this canal, and lumbar spinal stenosis spefically refers to a narrowing in the small of your back (the lumbar area). Lumbar Spinal Stenosis is more likely to affect people as they get older, though people of all ages may be affected through congenital disease or injury. Lumbar Spinal Stenosis can cause back pain when the nerves of the spinal chord and nerve roots become pinched. Until recently, people affected with this disease simply had to live with it, and to try to avoid activities that would aggravate the condition (running, bending too far). But today there are some therapies available to help patients restore a lot of their lost function and to reduce back pain. Treatments for stenosis include conservative therapies (physical therapy, rest when the symptoms get severe), surgery, laser surgery, and spine implants. Typically, patient will attempt conservative treatments aimed at managing their stenosis rather than try other procedures that are more risky.
Conservative Treatments - Conservative therapies for back pain will be attempted before other procedures that are riskier and less established. Most patients will experience some relief of their symptoms through conservative treatments. Conservative treatments are not meant as a cure, and the positive effects you would receive as a result of them could go away once you stop. Conservative treatments include supportive devices, adjustment in your activities, physical therapy, injections, analgesics, and NSAIDS.
Surgery - Surgery will only be attempted after other methods have failed to provide results, due to the risks associated with all surgical procedures. Also, patients must consider the success rates for spinal surgical procedures such as laminectomy and discectomy. Reported results for such procedures are between 60-80%. Spinal stenosis surgery options include endoscopic spine surgery, spinal fusion, foraminotomy, laminotomy, and laminectomy. Prior to preparing for your procedure, your surgeon will carefully look at your symptoms, age, gender, and radiology images before determining an appropriate procedure. Surgery is currently the only treatment available designed to provide lasting back pain relief from symptoms associated with spinal stenosis.
Laser Surgery - Laser surgery is a less invasive surgery for spinal stenosis that is provided by institutions such as the Laser Spine Institute. Laser surgery for back pain is still being established, and your health insurance may not pay for this procedure. Also, you may have to travel to have this procedure done (currently, the Laser Spine Institute have centers in five states). In a typical procedure, the laser is utilized to burn off the deaden the nerve(s) causing pain.
Spine Implants - Spinal implants are not designed to replace damaged joints or tissues as would happen in a knee or hip replacement. Rather, the implants are designed to protect the nerves that are causing back pain and compression of nerves.
Alternative Therapies/Treatments - Some patients benefit from inversion therapy techniques that decompress the spine. Inversion therapy products include inversion tables and the Back Bubble that can be ordered of backpainrelief.com.