What is Spinal Stenosis?
“What is spinal stenosis?” is one of the most frequently asked questions in any spinal physician’s office. Spinal stenosis is a common back problem, but many affected patients have never heard of it before they are given the diagnosis. Symptoms of spinal stenosis can include intense pain inside the back of the legs and numbing or cramping in various regions of the body. The loss of sensation that spinal stenosis patients experience can be extreme.
Here at Premia Spine we focus on advanced surgical treatments for spinal stenosis and related spinal disorders, including bone spurs, or facet arthrosis, and slipped disc, or spondylolisthesis. We’re excited to share information about these conditions – conditions that affect up to 70 percent of all people at some point in their lives – through our blog. An explanation of spinal stenosis is a good place to start.
“Stenosis” means “narrowing,” and spinal stenosis signifies an unnatural narrowing of the spinal canal, the space at the center of the vertebrae that houses the spinal nerves. This narrowing puts pressure on the nerves, and on nerves that emanate from the affected vertebrae to other parts of the body. The most commonly affected area is the lower, or lumbar, region of the spine. The neck, or cervical region of the spine, can also exhibit a narrowing; these conditions are called lumbar spinal stenosis and cervical spinal stenosis respectively.
Spinal stenosis can be caused by a variety of factors, including heredity, chronic inflammatory and arthritic conditions, and the normal aging process. In fact, it is most often seen in adults above the ages of 45 years; women are affected by spinal stenosis more frequently than men. The severity is related to the extent of the narrowing and of any attendant spinal problems, such as bone spurs, slipped discs, pinched nerves, spondylolisthesis, or sciatica. A neurosurgeon, orthopedic surgeon or any physician specializing in spinal disorders can diagnose spinal stenosis based on radiographs and X-rays.
Many treatments for spinal stenosis are available, including medications and physical therapy, including exercises for stretching the spine. For patients with moderate to severe spinal stenosis who do not respond to conservative spinal stenosis therapy, spinal decompression surgery may be an option. In spinal decompression procedures the back surgeon reestablishes the proper diameter of the spinal canal at the affected area by removing bony elements that have grown towards the spinal canal and are impinging on the nerves. Typically, spinal fusion back surgery is performed in conjunction with the decompression procedure. Spinal fusion involves connecting two or more adjacent vertebrae with screws and rigid rods. Fusion restores stability but eliminates the natural mobility between the vertebrae.
Today a new implantable device allows the surgeon to decompress and stabilize the spine while preserving the spine’s range of motion: the TOPS™ System, developed here at Premia Spine. Clinical studies show the TOPS System provides better outcomes than spinal fusion. We encourage patients to consult with a physician who specializes in spinal medicine, and to educate themselves about treatment options.