Spinal stenosis is a condition in which the open spaces within the spine become narrowed, irritating or pressing on the nerves along the spinal cord and causing neck, back, arm or leg pain, muscle weakness, numbness, tingling or hot/cold sensations in the back, neck or extremities. It is typically caused by arthritic changes due to aging, heredity, injury or overuse, or by thickening of the ligaments supporting the spine. Spinal stenosis tends to occur in people 50 and older in areas of the spine that get the most use, such as the neck and lower back. Spinal stenosis can refer into the arms or legs, causing pain, numbness or loss of coordination, and into the bowels, causing bladder or bowel control problems. Left untreated, muscle weakness and loss of sensation in the extremities may become permanent, so early treatment is important.
People suffering from stenosis of the spine obviously want to know what can be done to limit symptoms and prevent worsening of the condition. Luckily, there are effective treatments for spinal stenosis, most of which are non-invasive. “Most people don’t need to have surgery for spinal stenosis,” says Dr. Antonio DiSclafani, a neurosurgeon with Ocala Neurosurgical Center (ONC). “Pain and other symptoms can be effectively managed using other proven techniques.”
Treatments include medication, steroid injections and physical therapy to build strength and stability and improve flexibility. “Patients are often surprised by the relief they can get by sticking to a prescribed regimen of simple exercises combined with pain relief protocols,” says Dr. DiSclafani.
In the less-common situations where surgery becomes necessary, there are highly effective operations designed to reduce pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots, including those that create more room within the spinal spaces, decompress vertebrae, or fuse bones together to improve spinal stability and strength. Complications from these surgeries are uncommon and usually temporary, but patients should note that recuperation time for spinal stenosis surgery can be anywhere from six months to a year.
“Because it involves a rather lengthy recovery time, we at ONC always elect to start with the most conservative treatment options available, and perform surgery as a last resort,” says Dr. DiSclafani. “Most patients experience a big improvement in their mobility, stability and comfort without surgery, which is what it’s all about. Surgery can be a tremendous relief for people who don’t respond to other therapies, but most folks are surprised by what a little guidance and care can do to get them back to living comfortably and fully.”
If your doctor has diagnosed you as having spinal stenosis and you’re looking for safe, proven symptom relief as well as treatments focused on preventing the worsening of your symptoms, call the experienced and dedicated professionals of Ocala Neurosurgical Center. It’s one small step that can produce big relief.