Spinal Stenosis – A common cause of back pain and restricted mobility

Spinal stenosis, one of the most common degenerative conditions of the back, is characterized by an abnormal narrowing, or “stenosis,” of the spinal canal. The condition occurs most often in the lower back, or lumbar region of the spine, termed lumbar spinal stenosis. The narrowing can impinge or press on nerve roots. These nerves extend from the spine to the legs, commonly resulting in pain, weakness and numbness in the lower back or buttocks that further radiates to the thighs and legs. People affected by moderate to severe spinal stenosis typically live with significant lifestyle constraints that limit daily activities including work, social, and recreational pursuits. Lumbar spinal stenosis is often accompanied by facet arthrosis - an inflammation and enlargement of the facet joints - and/or spondylolisthesis – a forward displacement (either by slippage, or abnormal or excessive movement) of the vertebrae.

Treatment for Spinal Stenosis

Treatments for spinal stenosis include physical therapy, medications, and injections, which can relieve pressure on the impinged nerves. If these methods are ineffective, spinal decompression surgery may be recommended to relieve symptoms of spinal stenosis caused by pressure, or compression, on the spinal cord and nerve roots. Common decompression surgery techniques include a laminectomy, which involves removing the lamina, the bony arch over the spinal column, to increase the passage space for the spinal cord and nerve roots. The removal of the lamina can introduce spinal instability. The traditional solution to restore stability following surgical spinal decompression therapy has been spinal fusion surgery, in which adjacent vertebrae are fused together with bone grafts and devices such as metal rods, plates and screws. While spinal fusion can relieve pain, it eliminates all motion between the fused vertebrae segments, reducing spinal flexibility. Spinal fusion can actually stimulate degenerative changes in adjacent segments.

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