A person has hundreds of bones in their bodies, but the spine is one of the most important. You may feel back pain discomfort at times, which can be severely impairing if you don’t get treatment for it now. Many people put off spine surgery because it’s a scary proposition.
Typically, with lumbar spine fusion, you can no longer move around at all. The surgeon fuses together the vertebrae to prevent too much movement, but this also limits your range of motion. Since screws, metal rods, and other materials are used, there’s often less movement allowed for the rest of your life.
Most people don’t want to deal with those issues, but they know that medications and other non-surgical procedures aren’t working.
Since the spine is an essential part of your musculoskeletal system and is the body’s central support system, you must maintain its health. It connects every area of the body together to help people perform basic movements, such as twisting, standing, and bending.
Typically, spine injuries can cause you to have issues, but genetics, congenital birth defects, and age can play a role, too.
Though lumbar spine fusion used to be the only option for lumbar spondylolisthesis, there is another option. The TOPS™ System can cure various spine conditions, including severe lumbar spinal stenosis and spondylolisthesis of the lumbar region.
If you’re looking for an alternative to lumbar spondylolisthesis surgery, read on to find out about the TOPS™ System and what it does.
Degenerative Conditions within the Lumbar Spine
Your spinal column is made up of 33 different vertebrae, which are all stacked on top of each other. There are small discs that separate them and are like shock absorbers for the spine.
There are four vertebral sections from the cervical spine (neck), lumbar spine (low back), thoracic spine (upper back), and the sacral region at the bottom of the spine.
Many people aren’t aware that the spine has a delicate and complex nature. With that, there are controllable factors that can impact spine health, such as extra weight, weak muscles, and falls/accidents. Good posture is essential for a healthy spine, and stretches can go a long way to improve flexibility.
However, though you can do so much to protect your spine, there are non-preventable issues that can affect its health. These include inherited disorders, arthritis, and age.
Degenerative conditions of the lower back spine area can cause many functional limitations for aging adults. They appear slowly with time and can cause you to have reduced normal functions and a loss of motion.
Mostly, older adults suffer from these conditions because, as they age, their ligaments, bones, and joints within the spine weaken so that the spinal column falls out of alignment. You may have spinal deformities, pinched nerves, and pain.
One of the most common conditions is called degenerative spondylolisthesis, which produces significant lower back or leg pain and severe weakness. Usually, it occurs when one vertebra slips forward and lands on another, which narrows the diameter of the spinal canal. The slippage causes numbness, pain, weakness, and tingling in the legs and may affect your ability to walk or stand for any length of time.
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Symptoms
Another condition that the TOPS™ System can cure is lumbar spinal stenosis. As you know, the spinal cord runs through the spinal canal. With lumbar spinal stenosis, the lower part of the back has a narrowed spinal canal. This causes pressure on the nerves and spinal cord. Though it happens in all areas of the spine, it’s most common in the low back.
You may have been born with a narrow spinal canal, had an injury to the area, or a past surgery on the spine to cause it.
Typically, lumbar spinal stenosis symptoms include:
- Back pain
- Loss of sexual ability
- Weakness in the foot causing it to ‘slap’ the ground when walking
- No sensation in the feet
- Tingling, numbness, weakness, and cramping in the legs
- Burning pain moving down the buttocks and into the legs (sciatica)
Treatment for Lumbar Spondylolisthesis
Many times, spondylolisthesis can be treated with anti-inflammatory medicines, modifications to activities, physical therapy, and steroid injections into the affected areas. Usually, spine surgery isn’t required, especially if the condition is found early.
However, degenerative spondylolisthesis is a progressive disease, so spondylolisthesis surgery is likely at some point. Studies have shown that surgical intervention is best when significant symptoms persist for long periods.
The most common surgeries include lumbar spine fusion and lumbar laminectomy (decompression). However, fusion surgery often indicates that you can’t move normally after the surgery and for the rest of your life.
While it’s considered successful, the fused segment has less motion. Therefore, it puts stress on other parts of the spine, which can require more surgeries in the future.
Treatment for Severe Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Though mild and moderate stenosis can be treated with medications and physical therapy, severe lumbar spinal stenosis often requires surgery. This includes removing the bone spurs to widen the areas between the vertebrae. Again, lumbar spine fusion is usually necessary to stabilize the back.
The TOPS System
Now, there are alternatives to spine surgery in the traditional sense. Instead of fusion, your surgeon may use a motion preservation device called the TOPS™ System. This offers an alternative to fusion procedures, and it’s a mechanical device that can replace the soft tissues and bones removed during spinal decompression.
This device maintains the stability of the spine to preserve motion at the damaged segment in every direction.
The TOPS™ device uses two titanium plates, both connected by a polycarbonate urethane fastener called a boot. Once decompression is complete and considered a success, the TOPS™ device can be implanted through the posterior arthroplasty procedure.
Clinical trials are underway for the TOPS™ device, and it has always shown excellent outcomes for appropriate patients, such as those suffering from spinal stenosis and spondylolisthesis. Currently, the FDA is evaluating the implant, and it’s already approved for 40 centers within the USA.
While fusion procedures are effective, they limit motion and ultimately change the mechanics of the person’s spine with time. With the TOPS device, it reduces or eliminates all the lumbar spinal stenosis symptoms while restoring controlled movement within the damaged segment.
In a sense, it’s an alternative to fusion, but it’s also considered spine surgery. Therefore, there could be risks, but they are often seen as lower or similar to that of fusion therapy.
Typically, the device doesn’t promote stress at the other levels of the spine, either. Therefore, patients experience fewer adjacent level degenerations. Plus, the TOPS™ device restores normal to near-normal motion, which improves outcomes for the patient in the short- and long-term.
On top of that, most people find that recovery times are shorter. Once the TOPS device is implanted, patients can move around the next day. Though it’s important to follow the instructions for aftercare provided by the surgeon, you can be up and around much faster. Plus, you’re going to improve functionality with time and physical therapy.
Should You Ask Your Doctor about TOPS?
Everyone with spondylolisthesis or spinal stenosis should talk to their doctor about the TOPS implant. It’s important to know all of your options, and if you’ve been putting off lumbar spine fusion surgery, this could be the alternative you require.
Even if the condition is treatable with non-surgical options right now, that might not always be the case. Being prepared involves managing and monitoring pain levels and knowing when to try the next step. Instead of traditional fusion therapy, the TOPS system might be ideal for you.
What to Do Now
Please browse the site to learn more about the TOPS System and if it’s right for you. From there, you can find a doctor who can perform the surgery. If you’ve got more questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. Reduce your pain, feel better, and don’t limit your movements with the TOPS device!