What Is the Best Treatment for Spinal Stenosis?

Did you know that spinal stenosis affects 8-11% of the population? Are you experiencing pain or tingling from it and are looking for relief? 

In this article, you’ll learn about treatment for spinal stenosis. Read on to discover which treatment option is best and your different options. 

What Is Spinal Stenosis? 

Spinal stenosis is when the spaces between your bones that make up your spinal cord become narrow. This then puts pressure on your bones and nerves that go from your spine to your arms and legs. 

It’s most common in your neck or lower back. There are 2 types: lumbar stenosis and cervical stenosis. Cervical stenosis means the narrowing happens in your neck. Lumbar stenosis, the narrowing happens in your lower back. Lumbar stenosis is more common. 

Symptoms

Each type of this condition will have different symptoms. In the lower back, you can have weakness in your leg or foot along with numbness or tingling. You can also experience cramping or pain in both or one of your legs when you’re standing for an extended period of time. It can occur when you’re walking as well. 

For the neck, you can experience tingling or numbness in your leg, foot, arm, or hand. You can also experience weakness in your leg, foot, arm, or hand. Neck pain and problems with balance and walking can occur as well. 

Causes

Some causes for stenosis are tumors in your spine, aging, wear and tear damage to your bones, and overgrowth of bones. You can also experience herniated or bulging discs, thickened ligaments, or in rare cases, it can happen at birth. 

Who Gets it?

While it’s most common in women and men over 50 years old, it can happen when you’re younger, even at birth. If you injured your spine in any way you could get spinal stenosis as well. 

Diagnosis

To diagnosis spinal stenosis, you’ll either need an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan. An X-ray will show bony changes like bone spurs which could narrow the space within the spinal canal. 

An MRI shows damage to your ligaments and disks, along with any tumors. It also shows where the nerve in the spinal cord is being pressured. Sometimes people can’t have an MRI, and if that’s the case, your doctor might recommend a CT scan. 

This test uses X-ray images from many angles to show detailed images of your body. A contrast dye is injected and then the CT scan is conducted. The dye will show the nerves and spinal cord, along with any bone spurs, tumors, or herniated disks. 

1. Lumbar Laminectomy

Lumbar laminectomy is also known as a decompression surgery. Surgeons create space by removing the lamina. The lamina is the part of your vertebra that covers your spinal canal. It increases the width of your spinal canal to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves. 

This procedure has a very high success rate for improving walking. Sometimes the surgeon will also do spinal fusions. Spinal fusions are where they’ll connect 2 or more bones in the back for spinal stabilization.

Surgery is normally decided when it’s hard for you to walk, or you experience bowel or bladder problems. 

Cons

This procedure will cause a longer recovery time (a few weeks) since surgeons disrupt other muscles and tissues as they head toward the lamina. Serious problems can occur but rarely, such as blood clots in the legs. It could also cause spinal cord injury which leads to numbness or weakness. 

2. Medication

Before moving forward with a procedure, your doctor might first have you try over-the-counter medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen. If they don’t help your doctor might give you a cortisone steroid in your spinal cord. This will act as an anti-inflammatory and help relieve pain. 

Your doctor might also try an anesthetic medication that blocks pain near the affected nerve. You’ll also be told to avoid certain activities and to do activities that help you such as aerobic exercises. You’ll need to check back in with your doctor regularly to see how lifestyle changes are helping. 

You might also need to go to physical therapy to help relieve any pain. Physical therapy can help you improve your balance, build strength and endurance, and help the stability of your spine and maintain flexibility. 

3. Minimally Invasive Laminectomy

During a minimally invasive laminectomy, a small camera(laparoscope) and surgical tools are used to perform the lamina removal. You might also receive a spinal fusion during this as well.

It’s normally easier to walk after the procedure, and recovery is much quicker with only a few days of soreness. It has a high success rate.

4. Laminoplasty

The laminoplasty is only done on the neck. It opens the space in the spinal canal by creating a hinge on the lamina. Metal hardware is used in the opening of the spine. 

5. Laminotomy

A laminotomy only removes a piece of the lamina. It usually makes a hole to relieve any pressure in a spot. 

Potential Treatments

Underway in clinical trials, they’re testing the use of stem cells for degenerative spinal disease. It’s also known as regenerative medicine. Genomic medicine trials are also occurring which could lead to new gene therapies for treatment. 

Best Treatment for Spinal Stenosis

While you can choose non-invasive options such as aerobic exercises and medication, if you’re having trouble walking or are in pain, a minimally invasive laminectomy is the best treatment for spinal stenosis.

Would you like to learn more about the medical field? Check out our other articles.