Just like the outward signs of aging, the passing of time takes its toll on the inside of your body as well. One of the places at risk, when you get older, is your lower back, called your lumbar spinal region.
The reason this area is so susceptible to pain as you age is that the constant movement throughout your life has caused friction in the joints of your spine, and the discs that once cushioned the bones have become worn down. When your discs harden, shrink, or rupture, it causes changes that reduce the amount of space you have in your spinal canal, and in turn, cramps the nerves that should run freely in that tube-like environment — this is called lumbar spinal stenosis.
This narrowing can also occur if the ligaments in your spine thicken and overgrow, or if you have spinal osteoarthritis or an overgrowth of bony matter; or you suffer an injury, as all these conditions reduce the space in your spinal column and press on nerves.
The compressed nerves cause lower back pain, as well as pain that runs through your buttocks and down your legs (called sciatica or “neurogenic claudication”). You may also experience numbness, tingling, burning, heaviness, cramping, and weakness in your legs and difficulty walking long distances. In its early stages, you can get some relief from the pain through physical therapy and medication to reduce inflammation.
But when these conservative measures don’t work, and you’ve been suffering for six months or more, Dr. Jay M. Shah at Samwell Institute for Pain Management offers two highly successful treatments that can stop your lumbar spinal stenosis pain once and for all.
MILD® — minimally invasive lumbar decompression
One of the most effective treatments for treating lumbar spinal stenosis is a procedure called laminectomy. This treatment removes part of the vertebra that’s putting pressure on your nerve. For instance, if you have bone spurs, small growths protruding from your vertebra, a laminectomy gets rid of the back portion of that vertebra (called the lamina) to relieve the pressure and open up the space.
Dr. Shah, our double-board certified pain management expert, specializes in a minimally invasive and non-surgical version of laminectomy that greatly reduces the damage to surrounding tissue during the procedure, which, in turn, makes recovery faster and easier.
Instead of traditional open surgery, Dr. Shah performs minimally invasive lumbar decompression (MILD) by Vertos Medical. Instead of general anesthesia, you only need a local anesthetic to numb the area in addition to very light sedation.
Then, Dr. Shah makes a tiny incision about the diameter of a pencil eraser to enter the area of the spine that has spinal arthritis and overgrowth of ligaments. His surgical tools are guided by digital X-ray imaging that allows him to target the affected vertebra and remove the back portion of the ligament without harming the supportive muscles and other tissues. By preserving healthy tissue, MILD reduces the need to add metal hardware to maintain your spinal strength.
Your results are instant, and most patients report relief immediately following the MILD procedure and go home the same day as the procedure. Although you should relax and avoid strenuous activity for a few weeks, you can go back to your normal routine quickly and the procedure typically takes about 15-30 minutes.
Another treatment option for lumbar spinal stenosis, if it doesn’t respond to other pain management techniques, is a procedure that increases the space in your spinal column without surgically removing the lamina or spinal bone..
In this treatment, Dr. Shah inserts a tiny implant called VertiFlex Superion. This H-shaped device is placed between the vertebrae that are rubbing against one another due to compression from spinal stenosis. The device is then expanded to open up the space between the vertebrae, and the nerves are freed.
The entire procedure is performed through a small tube inserted in your back, so the incision is tiny, and the recovery is relatively easy. Because the VertiFlex Superion contains some titanium, this procedure isn’t a good solution for you if you’re allergic to that metal.
Vertiflex is also a same-day outpatient-based procedure that takes about 30 minutes. There is a quick recovery period and most patients feel relief immediately after the procedure.
Before recommending MILD or VertiFlex Superion, Dr. Shah always begins with noninvasive treatments to manage your pain, such as anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy. The next level of treatments may involve:
While these treatments help many people manage or overcome their lumbar spinal stenosis symptoms, you may need the extra measure of relief that only comes from decompressing your vertebrae. That’s when Dr. Shah performs MILD or employs VertiFlex Superion, depending on your condition.
To find out if your case of spinal stenosis is eligible for one of these proven treatments, contact us at either our Colonia or Livingston, New Jersey location by phone or use our online booking tool to schedule a consultation with Dr. Shah.