What is Stenosis?

There are several types of spinal stenosis, Lumbar Spinal Stenosis and Cervical Spinal Stenosis are just two of them.  Lumbar stenosis occurs when the spinal nerve roots are compressed in the lower back.  The effects of this are weakness or numbness in the lower back, bottom and legs.  Cervical spinal stenosis is compression of the spinal cord.  When this happens the symptoms can be extremely serious.  A few of them are major body weakness, paralysis and severe pain.  Spinal stenosis begins occurring in people who are 50 or older because it is connected to the degeneration of the spine.  As people 50 and older continue to age this degeneration continues to happen and can intensify the pain.

 

There are a lot of symptoms associated with spinal stenosis and it will depend to a degree which one you’re suffering from for what type of symptoms you’ll experience.  Lower back pain, leg numbness & tingling, walking limitations are the three most common symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis.   When a person with spinal stenosis walks, the longer they walk the more pain they will feel.  A way to reduce this pain is by stretching forward or sitting to open the spinal canal and relieve the leg pain.

 

James K KaufSpinal Surgery Shutterstockman MD has talked about stenosis in length during his research and mentions there are two diagnostic imaging studies for patients with stenosis.  They include an MRI scan or a CT scan with myelogram.  These two scans display the compression of the spine and allow doctors to see which nerves are being compressed.  Some forms of stenosis, such as cervical foraminal stenosis, can be pinpointed by other methods.  One method is injecting the suspected nerve with a couple drops of local anesthetic and then observing whether there is a remission of the symptoms.  If there is then the patient can decide if they want to conduct surgery there.

 

There are non-surgical treatments for spinal stenosis which many patients should consider.  There are a variety of exercises available, swimming, bicycling, stretching and Tai Chi are just a few to be named.  It should also be noted, exercising while you’re still young and building muscles in your back can help reduce the effects and rate at which you experience degeneration in your back.  Besides exercise, healthy eating and not becoming overweight can help prevent the effects of stenosis.  People who are overweight put more pressure on their spine and can increase the effects of compression.  We hope with this knowledge about spinal stenosis you will now take matters into your own hands and do your best to prevent the onset of spinal stenosis so that you don’t have to suffer the pain which millions of others have had to.

Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Spine surgery has developed a lot over the last century.  Doctors first began trying to conduct spine surgery in the 1800s but it was primarily used in attempts at curing children of back issues they were born with.  Fast forward to the First World War and we begin to see spine surgery become more common, and as a result, advances in technique are developed.  However, even as these techniques were developed, spine surgery was still seen as more of a last resort.  By the 1970s, our medical knowledge and techniques were capable of actually providing more effective and long term treatment.  The downside at this point in time was how big of an opening needed to be made to conduct the spine surgery.  This often caused damage to the surrounding muscles and left the patient with limited mobility during recovery and often a lot of pain.

Fortunately, new technologies have given us minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS) in the last two decades.  Minimally invasive spine surgery doesn’t require a long incision to be cut which, as mentioned before, reduces damage to the muscles surrounding the spine and usually leaves a patient in far less pain than an open spine surgery would.  Due to the little amount of disturbance required by the surgery patients generally recover faster, too.

Let’s take a look at a few of the different technologies which have made minimally invasive spine surgery so viable today.

Microscopic cameras now allow doctors, like James K Kaufman MD, to cut a very tiny slit through which the miniature camera attached to a wire can be inserted and directed.  This development prevents doctors from needing to make 5-6 inch incisions and damage surrounding muscles and soft tissues in order to see the area in which they will perform the surgery.  The damage caused previously forced many patients to have lengthier hospital stays and experience new types of pain as muscles healed afterwards.

Computer guidance is the next advancement that came along with miniaturized cameras.  The ability for computers to help guide surgeons and their tools to exactly the right spot made procedures far more accurate and reduced the risk of causing damage to surrounding areas of the spine.

Tubular Refractor is a tool which allows doctors use all of the equipment mentioned above and make sure all of it is in the right place too.  The surgeon creates a small incision and inserts the tubular refractor in through the skin and soft tissues down to the spinal column.  The refractor acts as a tunnel via which the surgeon can insert the camera and tools needed to fix the problem with the spine.  Depending on the scope of the problem a surgeon sometimes has to insert more than refractor.

Thanks to these technologies and other advancements in science and medical knowledge being made on a regular basis, spine surgery has become a far more viable option for people who have tried physical therapy and other treatments which have proven ineffective.