Spinal Stenosis: 3 Effective Treatments

Spinal Stenosis: 3 Effective Treatments

Your spine contains 24 bony vertebrae, each connected above and below by facet joints and separated by an intervertebral disc, a pillow-like cushion that acts as a shock absorber when you walk, jump, or even bend. 

All together, they form a hollow tube, inside of which runs the spinal cord and other associated nerves. The peripheral nerves exit the canal between vertebrae and travel to various parts of the body.

Spinal stenosis occurs when parts of the spinal column narrow, reducing the amount of space for the nerves. If the interior (epidural) space narrows too much, the bony structures can impinge upon the nerve roots, causing radiating pain, numbness and/or weakness, and tingling.

A classic example of impingement is sciatica, a condition in which the sciatic nerve becomes compressed. The pain, which may feel like an electric shock, travels from the nerve root in the lower back along the nerve’s path, extending into the buttocks and down the outside of the leg.

At Polaris Spine & Neurosurgery Center, our neurosurgeons see cases of spinal stenosis arising from many different causes and understand just how debilitating the pain can be. 

That’s why we offer a wide range of effective treatments at our state-of-the-art facilities, including an onsite outpatient surgical center, for our patients in the greater Atlanta, Georgia, area. Here’s what we want you to know about spinal stenosis and its treatment.

Causes of spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis can occur for many reasons, including:

Spinal osteoarthritis (OA)

OA comes from the wear-and-tear of a joint over time, which is why it’s mostly seen in older adults. As you age, the smooth cartilage that covers the facet joints starts to break down. 

This allows bones to rub against each other. The result is pain, inflammation, and the growth of bone spurs (osteophytes), the latter of which can narrow the spinal canal and the foramina, the openings in the spinal column where the nerves exit. 

This narrowing may impinge on the nerves, causing further, radiating pain.

Degenerative disc disease (DDD)

DDD is also a wear-and-tear condition that occurs with age. The intervertebral discs start to dehydrate, losing their pillowy appearance and flattening out. This narrows both the space inside the spinal column as well as the foramina. 

The flattened discs may also push out into the spinal canal, further impinging on nerves. At the same time, the disc degeneration puts additional pressure on the facet joints, leading to further deterioration.

Scoliosis

Degenerative scoliosis, also called adult onset scoliosis, is an abnormal side-to-side curve of the spine. In this case, both the facet joints and the intervertebral discs start to deteriorate, resulting in spinal asymmetry that may lead to a narrowing of the spinal canal and nerve root impingement with radiating pain.

Ankylosing spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory disease that’s more common in men than women and usually presents in early adulthood. 

Over time, it can lead some of the spinal vertebrae to fuse together, making the spine less flexible and resulting in a hunched posture. If the ribs are also affected by the inflammation, it can be difficult to breathe deeply.

3 effective treatments for spinal stenosis

We offer three different but effective treatments for spinal stenosis. Your doctor determines which one (or combination) is best for you based on your medical history and the results of your physical exam and imaging tests.

Physical therapy

We have onsite physical therapists who work closely with you to establish a regular exercise routine. Workouts strengthen your upper legs and arms, which helps control your pain, improve your balance, and aid your ability to walk, bend, and twist.

It’s important that you not only do the exercises during your PT sessions, but also regularly perform them at home.

Epidural steroid injections

Steroids work by decreasing inflammation, which then decreases your level of pain. By injecting a steroid into your epidural space, we can temporarily relieve your symptoms enough so you can engage in physical therapy for long-term relief.

Decompression laminectomy surgery

The goal of this surgery is to relieve pressure on your spinal cord and nerves, but it’s not for everyone. We generally reserve this option for patients experiencing severe pain from bone buildup within the spinal canal.

If you’re experiencing radiating pain, or pain and stiffness in your neck or back, it’s time to come into Polaris Spine & Neurosurgery Center. Give us a call to schedule a consultation with one of our neurosurgeons, or book online today. We’re located in College Park, Bethlehem, and Sandy Springs, Georgia.

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