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Medical terminology doesn’t go out of its way to be complicated or hard to understand. It’s simply that the language has to be very precise, and that much of it comes from Latin. Hence, it can be difficult to decipher some med-speak without a little help. Take the term “lumbar laminectomy,” a fairly common surgical procedure that can help alleviate the pain, mobility limitations, and other symptoms that often accompany medical conditions of the lower spine. Indeed, the word “lumbar” refers to the lower spine. The lumber portion of the spine comprises the lowest five vertebrae of the spinal column, which bear the designation L1 through L5 – “L” standing for lumbar.
Every vertebra in the spinal column is covered in a bony sheath called the lamina, which helps protect
the nerves that run through the spinal column. But sometimes, due to injury, disease, degenerative changes, or other causes, the lamina can put pressure on nerves emanating from the spinal column, a condition referred to as a pinched nerve. Problems within the vertebrae, such as an unnatural narrowing of the spinal canal, a condition called spinal stenosis, can also result in pinched nerves.
When surgery is performed to relieve pressure on a pinched spinal nerve, a procedure called spinal decompression, it requires cutting away the portion of the lamina that is impinging on a nerve or to gain access to the interior of the vertebrae to address a condition such as spinal stenosis. In medicine, the suffix “ectomy” refers to excision or removal. Thus, cutting away a portion of the lamina is a procedure called a laminectomy. So a lumbar laminectomy is an operation in which a portion of the lamina on one of the first five vertebrae is trimmed away. A lumbar laminectomy can achieve dramatic results in alleviating the symptoms of pinched nerves. Traditionally, spinal fusion back surgery was performed in concert with a laminectomy to stabilize the spine at the point of the operation. Now lumbar laminectomy patients have an alternative that provides better outcomes than spinal fusion surgery while preserving the full range of the spine’s motion: The TOPS (Total Posterior Spine) System procedure. If you’re a candidate for a lumbar laminectomy or other spinal decompression procedure, make sure you understand all your treatment options.
What is a Laminectomy
Lumbar Laminectomy is a spinal surgery involving the removal of the vertebral bone to alleviate symptoms of spinal stenosis. Laminectomy surgery is relatively common for major surgery. Its main function is to reduce spinal pressure on the cord and nerve roots when they are being unnaturally restricted. This surgery is for those suffering from various ailments, including those sustained from past injuries, herniated disks, spinal stenosis, and tumors. While there are alternative methods to try before getting to this point, such as physical therapy, medication, and even injections, some may find this is the only path to relief.
While determining what is a laminectomy, we should deconstruct the name. Lamina is the scientific name for the vertebral bone. This surgery, Lumbar Laminectomy, is the process of removing the vertebral bone to lift pressure surrounding the spinal canal. Pressure is created by things like impacted bone injury, bone overgrowth, or growing tumors. A decompressive laminectomy increases available space and therefore alleviates any pain sufferers may be experiencing. While the surgery itself is great, so are the results.
What is Spinal Stenosis
If you are considering spinal laminectomy you may likely be suffering from spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis is one of the most common spinal ailments. Since stenosis means narrowing or restricting, this condition refers to the unnatural narrowing of the spinal canal. This condition often develops for unknown reasons but can be caused by an overgrowth of either bone or tissue. Some cases may be hereditary, while others arise from an unhealthy lifestyle.
Options Before Surgery
Everyone can benefit from a healthy lifestyle, including those suffering from spinal stenosis or other spine stemming pain. Simple solutions like a healthy diet, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy BMI can all reduce pain and symptoms. While these are idealistic options, they also are not the solution for everyone. It is possible that someone’s back pain is so great they are limited in the forms of exercise they can partake in.
Physical therapy is another noninvasive option that patients can try before getting a lumbar laminectomy surgery. Because most patients suffer from pain in their back and legs, it can be helpful to have a physical therapist to assist in teaching the body how to move through these debilitating pains in a way that can offer some relief. Physical therapy assigned exercises to have the ability to release pressure similar to surgery, though the effects are often not as long-lasting.
Medication is also available to those suffering from inescapable pain. Some medications offered can help with both pain and inflammation so that those suffering from spinal stenosis are able to manage their symptoms throughout their day.
While these solutions can help manage and relieve pain, ultimately, they do not offer more stability to a destabilized spine, nor do they permanently create space in the spine where the pressure afflicts. In cases of long-term relief, most find that surgery is necessary to moving forward into a pain-free life.
In deciding if surgery is right for you, it helps to know exactly what is to be expected during the procedure. A doctor uses general anesthesia to put the patient under for the duration of the surgery. In the process of the surgery, the surgeon makes a small cut into the back, right over the affected area. They then enter through this cut with small tools to lift the muscle away from the spinal column. The lamina is then removed to create space in the narrowed spinal canal. In the case of a herniated disk, the doctor can then remove the parts of the disk that have herniated.
Traditionally after this, the vertebrae would be fused to create stability in the spine to supplement the removed lamina. This is done with either bone graphs, screws, or metal rods. While efficient in rendering the spine functional post-operation, it does create limited mobility that can impede some physical activities.
How to Prepare for Laminectomy Surgery
Laminectomy Surgery is major surgery. Many are intimidated by spinal surgery because it is such a crucial part of our body and people often have a fear of how their life changes after. Here is how to prepare for optimal recovery.
Once you wake from the surgery your care team checks to ensure everything has gone smoothly and your body has responded well to the spinal laminectomy surgery. While a short hospital stay is typical, some people are released the same day. This means that no matter the case, the comforts of home are not too far away.
Upon returning home, rest! Though it is healing in the long run, your body has just sustained a major injury and needs time and care to recover. Give yourself grace and let people help with things like meals and keeping the house running. Letting yourself rest at this time is crucial for long-term recovery.
It is recommended that you do not work for the first few weeks following a decompressive laminectomy. Those with less physically demanding jobs return to work sooner than those with more labor-intensive jobs. If you have a spinal fusion laminectomy recovery takes longer.
How to Make Spinal Surgery Less Traumatic
The results of lumbar laminectomy, while impressive, may take a while to work. There are records of patients taking up to a full year to complete their laminectomy recovery. Those who do go through with the surgery are also sometimes recommended physical therapy as a part of their recovery process. This leads to a long and involved path back to normalcy.
If you are looking for a way to make your laminectomy surgery and recovery less traumatic, consider a spinal implant. TOPS system uses an implant after decompression is completed to prevent the necessity for spinal fusion. Where traditionally vertebrae are fused after laminectomy surgery, TOPS implants hold the space where the vertebrae were removed, combining the relief of the surgery with all the mobility and freedom you had before.
Patients who have had a TOPS System implant report faster and easier laminectomy recoveries than those who received traditional spinal fusions. Because the spine is the foundation of the human body it is important you take the path offering the greatest recovery and mobility post-surgery. Does this look like a spine that has been fused together, or upgraded with an implant?
Life After Laminectomy
While it is a big decision to make, ultimately it comes down to regaining your life. Those who have spinal laminectomy are choosing a life free of debilitating pain and getting back the body they once knew. Lumbar laminectomy patients are often happier and healthier, having chosen the care right for them.
It’s common for office and remote workers to suffer from back pain, and some of them even consider it an inevitable part of their lives. Most people think those problems are just bad posture issues and try to solve them with homemade methods such as using ergonomic chairs or applying ice, but what if the problem is more serious than having a bad posture?
If that was the case, you’d be letting your back problems get worse each day and allowing many other back conditions and illnesses to appear. One of those conditions is lumbar spinal stenosis, which narrows the space within your spinal cord, impeding it and the adjacent nerves to work as they should.
You must take care of this issue as soon as you notice it, so we are here to provide you with all the information you need to know about the symptoms and available treatments of this condition. Your priority must be your safety, so make sure to learn as much as you can about lumbar spinal stenosis and walking problems!
What Causes Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?
As we mentioned before, when you talk about lumbar spinal stenosis, you are talking about the compression or narrowing of the space within your spinal cord. However, you must be careful regarding this matter since many things can cause that condition to happen.
To understand the problem and thus how to treat it, you need to understand what produces it, so here is a list of the most common causes of lumbar spinal stenosis:
It’s easy to notice lumbar spinal stenosis if it’s originated from spinal injuries since those problems don’t come from any indirect issue or congenital condition. Direct accidents such as car crashes or any heavy hit you receive that can dislocate your bones, break them, or cause extreme inflammation can damage your spinal canal, putting a lot of pressure on your spinal nerves.
Your ligaments are an essential part of your body since they hold your bones together, including, logically, your spinal cord. However, issues such as arthritis can cause your ligaments to thicken and consequently bulge into space within your spinal canal. This issue doesn’t only produce lumbar spinal stenosis but also major walking problems if not treated on time.
If you are having a case of bone spurs and overgrowth of the bones within your spinal cord, you are prone to develop lumbar spinal stenosis. The name of this issue is osteoarthritis, also known as the wear and tear condition, which breaks down the protective covering of your joints and makes your bones rubbing against each other and creating bone spurs.
Tumors, whether if cancerous or benign, can form within the space in your spinal cord. The abnormal growth of the tumors can limit the space for your nerves and spinal cord, causing this spinal stenosis to happen. You should make a doctor’s appointment as soon as you feel any unusual sensation or pain in the back since it’s not easy to detect those tumors without realizing the corresponding tests.
What Are the Symptoms of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?
The best way to prevent major issues that can be detrimental to your health is to detect their symptoms on time and treat them properly. However, it’s not that easy to recognize which illness or condition the symptoms correspond to since many diseases share the same symptoms, so you have to notice more than one.
Lumbar spinal stenosis is a dangerous matter that you have to identify as soon as you can, so here is a list of the primary symptoms to help you check if you have any of them:
There are two more types of spinal stenosis: cervical and thoracic spinal stenosis. Both of them have different symptoms that help you notice them. Since all three diseases are directly related and can affect one another, here are the symptoms of thoracic and cervical spinal stenosis:
Thoracic Spinal Stenosis
Cervical Spinal Stenosis
What Is the Best Treatment for Spinal Stenosis?
When suffering from this condition, you can ask yourself: what’s the best treatment for spinal stenosis? Or what’s the latest treatment to solve it? Our primary condition is your safety, so you can read this article as an objective information page to help you ease your pain and eliminate your back problems.
The most effective solution to spinal stenosis is spinal surgery since it can address all the issues occurring within the space of your spinal cord and even related problems that you didn’t consider when asking for surgery. Look at the best and latest treatments for spinal stenosis:
Medications: Such as opioids, anti-depressants to reduce chronic pain, and pain relievers can help you to ease the pain and sensations caused by this condition.
Physical Therapy: Since it helps you stay active. Commonly, spinal stenosis patients tend to be less active and weak to the pain and lack of mobility, but if you ask your doctor to help you arrange physical therapy, you can maintain and improve your flexibility, endurance, and balance.
Applying heat/Cold: This is one of the most common alternatives for people who want to try self-help remedies. Applying heat to the areas where you feel the most pain relaxes your muscles and helps your broken joints while improving your blood flow. If the heat doesn’t work, try ice, which significantly alleviates inflammations, tenderness, and swelling.
Decompression Procedure: This procedure is only available for patients who have lumbar spinal stenosis caused by thickened ligaments. Doctors don’t need to apply anesthesia nor stitches to complete this procedure, since it consists of making a little incision to remove the thickened parts of the ligaments to make more space for the spinal cord, decompressing nerve roots.
Steroids Injections: It’s not recommended that you apply this method very often, since you can only use it to ease inflammation and pain for a limited time. The treatment consists of injecting corticosteroids in the area where the nerve roots are to reduce inflammation and pain, but that’s its only effect and it cannot eliminate spinal stenosis by itself.
Surgery: Patients ask for surgery when they can’t stand the pain anymore, and the disease is becoming a setback to realize daily activities. This method is delicate and has to be done very carefully, but it’s highly effective to free yourself from spinal stenosis. There are many surgeries regarding this matter, so here is the primary one:
Your spinal cord is an essential part of your body and you have to take special care of it since if damaged, it can be the reason why you suffer from highly dangerous conditions and illnesses in the future. If you feel or notice any of the symptoms you read in this article, get a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible to make sure the problem doesn’t progress, and you can treat it on time.
There are several different types of back surgery proving successful at resolving patients’ back pain issues, each involving the highest level of surgical technology available today, as well as the skill of a board-certified spinal surgeon. If your spinal specialist advises back surgery, you’ll embark upon a learning process about the different available back surgery procedures – guided by your physician. You always want to get your information directly from your spinal surgeon, since back surgery information online can be outdated or incorrect, and Googling back surgery topics can sometimes cause unnecessary anxiety. The best course of action for researching back surgery procedures is to prepare a list of questions for your surgeon, and request all of the back surgery literature possible that your doctor can provide you with so that you can fully understand what will be done during your surgical procedure.
Overall, back surgery can accomplish several different pain-relieving goals, including removing portions of the bone to widen the narrowed area in your vertebrae, which can cause back pain. Your spinal surgeon may remove the gel-like middle section of a ruptured disc to relieve pressure on pinched nerves in the back. And sometimes, the damage to a disc is so severe, your doctor has to remove the entire disc and then fuse together the remaining discs.
Below is a list of some of the different types of back surgery that may be the customized choice for your back damage or condition:
Since back surgery is a complex procedure, work with your spinal surgeon to explore all your options. Every situation is different and you need to feel secure that you have fully researched which type of back surgery would be best for you, and if back surgery is necessary at all. And of course, your doctor will guide you through all the information you need regarding recovering from back surgery and what you can expect for your post-surgery lifestyle.
Back pain is not just a symptom of aging. Anyone, of any age, in any physical condition, can and will likely experience back pain at some point in their life. So if you are experiencing back pain, don’t think that you’re alone. There are plenty of seventeen year-old athletes who experience back pain and thus seek the same medical care that you do for your own back issues.
While getting older can be a cause of back pain, as your body’s discs, joints, muscles and ligaments carry you through your life for a longer amount of time, and while many people experience their first back pain episodes while in their 30s and 40s, there are other top causes of back pain:
In short, anyone can get back pain. And perhaps you see yourself in several of the above causes, so take steps now to help prevent back pain or help lessen your back pain symptoms.
Hearing “It’s just a back strain” may not be very comforting when you’re experiencing severe back pain. While back strain may sound like a minimal back injury, it can cause you a great deal of discomfort, perhaps sleepless nights, back spasms that can cause severe lower back pain and in some cases, immobility. Many people with back strains go to the emergency room for relief.
Most lower back pain episodes are caused by damage to the muscles and/or ligaments in the lower part of the back. When you have back strain, you may have one or both of the following:
Strain and sprain are often used interchangeably, since the treatment and prognosis for both of these are the same. So one is not worse than the other, although the amount of pain you’re experiencing may make you think that what you have is indeed the worse of the two. Especially since you cannot see inside your back, your imagination may conclude that you have something much worse than a back strain or sprain. Patients experiencing pain can often jump to dramatic conclusions and envision difficult treatments ahead.
It can calm your worries to understand what a back strain is. When the muscles or ligaments in the lower back are strained or torn, the area around the muscles will likely become inflamed. That back inflammation leads to back spasms that can cause your severe back pain and immobility.
“How did this happen to me?” is likely the next question on your mind. Back strains are often the result of a movement or movements that put undue stress on the lower back. Motions like lifting a heavy object, lifting multiple heavy objects (such as with landscaping using large rocks or bricks,) lifting and twisting, a sudden and single twisting motion (like your last golf tee-off of the day,) or a fall are just some of the movements that can cause back strain.
Symptoms of back strain may range from a mild ache to sudden, debilitating pain often localized in the lower back. The pain of a back strain is likely to be located in the low back, and not radiate down your leg (as with sciatica.) Your back may be sore to the touch, pain comes on suddenly and strongly, you may have those muscle spasms in your lower back, and you might find standing or walking to be more uncomfortable than resting.
With a doctor’s care and pain-reducing medications, you may find your back strain’s worst pain subsiding quickly, but with back strain, you may experience a lower level of pain, or flare-ups of pain, for a few weeks to a few months, depending on how severe your back strain is. And how well you rest after being diagnosed. Self-care is essential with back strain, so that those stretched or torn muscles of ligaments can heal well. Most back strains and sprains are much better after 3 to 4 weeks, since the large muscles in your back have a good blood supply, which delivers healing nutrients and proteins to your injury site for healing to take place. You might not be able to see that happening, but as you heal from your back strain, that’s what’s happening beneath the surface.
Epidural injections of steroids have often been the treatment of choice for patients with a pinched nerve in the back whose symptoms did not respond to simple exercise, physical therapy, or other more conservative approaches. Steroid injections have also been offered to patients with spinal stenosis whose back pain was unrelieved by less invasive therapy. But the results of a new research study hint that injections of steroids for back pain may be less beneficial than believed. The study is small, but it still bears consideration, as the findings are statistically valid and underscore why healing is as much an art as a science.
The study of the efficacy of steroid injections for back pain examined more than 270 patients, aged 53 to 75 years old, culled from the ranks of a larger study of individuals with spinal health problems. The research subjects were followed for four years. Sixty-nine of these patients had epidural injections and 207 did not, but otherwise the patients’ symptoms were primarily the same in terms of severity, as measured by well-established scales used to measure pain in the leg and lower back. Using these scales, researchers found less improvement among those who had epidural injections than among patients who did not have injections.
Several caveats must be offered when considering the results of this research. First, as the authors readily acknowledge, factors that the researchers didn’t account for and couldn’t control may have affected or skewed the results. Nonetheless, we are seeing fresh thinking and new techniques improving outcomes for many spinal patients. For example, patients who elected to have spinal decompression surgery to relieve symptoms of pinched nerves typically opted for a spinal fusion back surgery in tandem, in order to stabilize the spine. Today, a growing number are opting for TOPSTM – the Total Posterior Solution – System, instead of spinal fusion. The TOPS system, unlike spinal fusion, preserves complete independent motion of the individual vertebrae. This is one more way that fresh thinking, and new technologies and procedures are transforming the care and treatment of back problems.
Lumbar spinal stenosis, a common medical problem, denotes an unnatural narrowing of the spinal canal, the center of the spinal column housing the spinal nerves that relay sensorial information to the brain and control the movements of our muscles. The term stenosis comes from Latin, and means a narrowing. When a portion of the spinal canal narrows unnaturally, it can put pressure on the spinal nerves, and these pinched nerves in turn can cause pain and limit mobility.
The good news is that a variety of treatment options are available that have been proven effective in helping individuals recover from or ameliorate the symptoms of spinal stenosis. Conservative, non-invasive therapies include simple lifestyle changes, medications, physical therapy, and injections of anti-inflammatory agents. For patients with spinal stenosis, there’s no way of knowing which of these approaches will be most successful, so physicians may simply prescribe one of these treatments as a first step, and monitor the results to see how the patient responds. If the first method selected doesn’t achieve the results of helping the patient recover from spinal stenosis, the next option may be tried, and so on.
For patients with moderate to severe spinal stenosis who do not respond to conservative treatments, surgery may be recommended. In this form of spinal decompression surgery, the surgeon trims away excess bone in the narrowed center of the affected vertebra, relieving pressure on the compressed nerve or nerves. Historically, a spinal fusion back surgery operation has been performed in conjunction with surgery to relieve spinal stenosis, in order to stabilize the region of the spine where the operation was performed. Today there’s an important, and better alternative to spinal fusion. The TOPS (Total Posterior Spine) System procedure provides better clinical outcomes than spinal fusion surgery. The TOPS solution has the added benefit of preserving the spine’s full range of motion, unlike spinal fusion, which permanently fuses adjacent vertebrae. TOPS also offers a much quicker recovery from surgical treatment for spinal stenosis than spinal fusion. If you’re a candidate for spinal stenosis surgery, make sure you understand all the advanced surgical solutions available today, and what impact each will have on your recovery from this condition.
In our previous blog we discussed the tremendous stresses borne by the lumbar, or lower portion of the spine comprising the five lowest vertebrae. In fact, lumbar back pain is a significant health issue, affecting about 70 to 85 percent of Americans at some point in their lives, according the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Among the most common causes of lumbar spinal problems is the degeneration of bones and tissue in the spine that occur as a normal part of aging. But one doesn’t have to be older to have lumbar spinal problems. Back pain is the most frequent cause of activity limitation in people under the age of 45, according to the NIH. Trauma or injury, poor posture and biomechanics, genetics, obesity and poor muscle tone can all result in lumbar spinal problems that cause pain, limit mobility, and have other serious health consequences. These conditions include spinal stenosis, bulging disc, herniated disc, slipped disc, radiculopathy and spondylolisthesis.
A variety of treatment options are available for individuals affected by conditions causing lumbar back pain. Individuals with moderate to severe cases of these conditions who do not respond to conservative treatment options such as medication, physical therapy and lifestyle changes, may opt for a surgical solution. Frequently this involves cutting away portions of a lumbar vertebra that is impinging, or putting pressure on a nerve emanating from the spinal column. Such spinal decompression surgery can have a dramatic impact on relieving pain and restoring mobility. However, removing bony elements also weakens and destabilizes the spine, so historically a procedure known as lumbar fusion, or lumbar spinal fusion has been performed in conjunction with spinal decompression back surgery of the lower spine. In this procedure the vertebra from which tissue was removed is fused to an adjacent vertebra. This stabilizes and strengthens the spine, but lumbar fusion eliminates the natural flexion and independent motion of the fused vertebrae. Today lumbar decompression surgery patients have an alternative to lumbar fusion: the TOPS™ (Total Posterior Spine) System. TOPS preserves the full range of the spine’s natural motion, and has been shown to provide better outcomes than fusion in clinical studies performed around the world. If you are considering surgery for a lumbar spinal problem, ask your physician about all your surgical options.
Imagine if the branches of a tree were just as big at the top as they are at the bottom, and that sometimes, heavy loads were placed on the ends of the very highest branches. Think of the stress that would put on the lower portion of the tree trunk. Well, that’s analogous to the situation we humans experience with our spinal columns. Our spinal column is like the trunk of a tree, but we’re just as big at the top of our trunks as at the bottom. The stress this puts on our lower backs – also called the lumbar region of the spine – is exacerbated by the cumulative affect of a lifetime of lifting and twisting in combination with degenerative changes of the spine that occur as a result of aging. So it’s not surprising that the majority of back problems that bring patients to spinal specialists are centered in the lower, or lumbar region of the spine.
These stresses, along with our genetic makeup, disease or injury, can result in a host of spinal disorders such as bulging or herniated discs, slipped disc and spinal stenosis. These disorders, in turn, can result in unnatural pressure being put on nerves that emanate from the spinal column, potentially causing pain, restricted mobility, and other symptoms of pinched nerves. We talked about the problem of pinched spinal nerve and spinal decompression in general in a previous blog. As we noted, spinal decompression is a means of easing pressure on impinged spinal nerves, and can be performed either non-surgically or surgically. Lumbar spinal decompression simply refers to decompression procedures performed on the lower portion of the spine.
The surgical solution for a lumbar pinched nerve involves removing tissue from vertebrae in the lumbar region that impinge, or put pressure on a nerve. This is called lumbar spinal decompression surgery. Historically, spinal fusion back surgery has been performed in conjunction with lumbar decompression surgery to stabilize the spine. Today, the TOPS™ (Total Posterior Spine) System provides an alternative to spinal fusion that preserves the full range of the spine’s natural motion, and has been shown to provide better outcomes than fusion in clinical studies performed around the world. This provides an important more treatment option for individuals with moderate to severe symptoms of pinched nerves who do not respond to non-surgical lumbar decompression procedures.