What is Spinal Stenosis?
Stenosis, also known as a pinched nerve, occurs when the spinal canal narrows to the point where there is pressure on the spinal cord and nerves (leading to the arms or legs) traveling through it. The dehydration and loss of height in spinal discs due to aging contribute to this condition. Bone spurs from arthritis or herniated discs may also play a factor in causing stenosis. The degenerative process leading to spinal stenosis is slow and can take many years to cause enough narrowing to produce symptoms. In addition to pain, stenosis may cause numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arms or legs.
How is Spinal Stenosis Diagnosed?
Testing to confirm a spinal stenosis diagnosis includes an MRI or a CT scan with a myelogram. These tests will confirm the suspected narrowing and compression of the nerve(s). Since spinal stenosis at one or two levels of the spine can affect a single exiting nerve, a combination of imaging and a physical examination by a spinal physician can confirm the diagnosis.
How is Spinal Stenosis Treated?
As with many spinal conditions, non-operative treatment is the first option. Physical therapy can help increase the strength of muscles that support the spine and alleviate irritation attributed to the degeneration of spinal bones and discs.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can relieve pain but will not change the course of the causes of stenosis. In some cases, epidural steroid shots can aid in decreasing swelling and irritation of pinched nerves. Modifying daily activity is almost always necessary for reducing stenosis pain. It is best to avoid high-impact exercises to lessen the stress on the weakened spine.
If conservative treatments prove ineffective after 6-12 weeks, surgery may be necessary in cases where pain has become disabling. The Laminectomy procedure involves decompressing the pinched nerves by removing the narrowed canal's posterior bony portion (lamina). There are minimal restrictions post-operatively, and most patients go home the next day with no restrictions.
What Can I Expect After Treatment?
Most stenosis patients won't require any significant recovery processes if treated nonoperatively. However, lifestyle changes may be necessary, and rest combined with proper exercise or physical therapy can have short and long-term benefits. It is also essential to monitor the condition by assessing how frequently lingering pain resurfaces.
Patients who have undergone a surgical procedure should avoid lifting heavy objects or bending and twisting motions for several weeks. Outpatient physical therapy can help surgical patients learn how to avoid pain-triggering movements. In addition, long periods of sitting can cause pain to reappear, and it is best to avoid smoking.
Pinched Nerves/Spinal Stenosis Providers
Dr. Datta, Kassandra, & team,
I just wanted to thank you and your whole team for helping me this year. Special thanks to Bryce for his patience and care during my first visits, then offering surgery. Big thanks to Kassandra, who spent many days communicating with me and the hospital, dealing with COVID issues and insurance issues. You were amazing. Thanks to Dr. Datta for your work and diligence trying to get me in, despite late COVID results. I appreciate your efforts so much. Through the craziest year, you and your team literally game me life back with this surgery!!! I am doing so well. I am mobile and functioning again. I am down 20 lbs because I can now work out without getting injured and re-injured repeatedly. You have all made such a difference in my life this year, for the better, and I am BEYOND grateful. Thank you so much, you all ROCK!