Jarvis Jones; Will Spinal Stenosis Play a Role in His NFL Draft? Dr. Kaixuan Liu on Advancements in Spinal Stenosis Surgery That May Help Many Like Jarvis Jones

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As sports fans predict who will be drafted for the NFL this season, at least one player has been red flagged because of a condition that more commonly affects people over fifty. University of Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones suffers from spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spine, which makes him a risky choice for coaches.

Spinal Stenosis Image
If symptoms are ignored, the condition will create more inflammation, which can cause permanent and irreparable nerve damage.

As sports fans predict who will be drafted for the NFL this season, at least one player has been red flagged because of a condition that more commonly affects people over fifty. According to his Wikipedia page, University of Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones suffers from spinal stenosis,a narrowing of the spine, which makes him a risky choice for coaches. While playing for the USC Trojans football team, Jones suffered a neck injury during a game against Oregon. He was later diagnosed with spinal stenosis and the USC medical staff would not clear him to play for the team again.

In the spring of 2010, Jones underwent medical testing by the Georgia medical staff and was cleared to play football at the University of Georgia. While Jones may be young, his affliction is not uncommon. Lumbar spinal stenosis (lower back) in the United States impacts 8 to 11 percent of the population annually; a smaller number of people suffer from spinal stenosis in the neck (cervical spine).

A report in the April 2012 issue of Physiotherapy compared the efficacy of surgery versus conservative treatment. The study found that current evidence does not favor conservative management for spinal stenosis. Decompression surgery proved to be more effective than conservative care in four out of five studies.

Advances in spinal stenosis treatment
Interspinous devices are a recent treatment option. These devices can be implanted with local anesthesia and without the need to remove bone or soft tissue. According to the AAOS, they pose no serious risk and are more effective than epidural steroid injections, with a 60 percent to 70 percent success rate at 4 years after implantation.

Spinal stenosis surgery
Three to six months of nonsurgical care is standard for the lumbar spinal stenosis prior to surgical intervention. However, if a patient has numbness or weakness that interferes with walking, impaired bowel or bladder function, or other neurological involvement, surgery may be required immediately. An operation can relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves and restore and maintain alignment and strength of the spine. This release can be done by removing, trimming, or adjusting diseased parts that are causing the pressure or loss of alignment.

The most common spinal stenosis surgery is a minimally invasive procedure called decompressive laminectomy, which involves removal of the lamina (roof) of one or more vertebrae to create more space for the nerves. A surgeon may perform a laminectomy with or without fusing vertebrae or removing part of a disc.

What causes spinal stenosis?
Age and heredity are the primary culprits. Degenerative changes in spinal discs as we age can cause progressive narrowing of the space reserved for the spinal cord and other nerves. The tapering is usually preceded by more common conditions such as bone spurs, disc herniations, bulges, and tears, or scarring from previous treatments. Osteoarthritis, scoliosis, and rheumatoid arthritis are other factors, as well as birth defects that result in a spinal canal that’s smaller than average. “Early diagnosis and treatment is critical,” says Kaixuan Liu MD, PhD, founder of Atlantic Spine Center in Edison, N.J. “If symptoms are ignored, the condition will create more inflammation, which can cause permanent and irreparable nerve damage.”

What are the symptoms of spinal stenosis?
Symptoms can include pain in the neck or back, numbness, weakness or pain, tingling arms or legs, and foot problems. Lumbar spine stenosis patients rarely complain solely of back pain; their most common complaint is buttock and leg pain.

Non-surgical spinal stenosis treatment
Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and muscle relaxants may be prescribed for several weeks. Physical therapy and specific exercises can also prove beneficial. “It’s a natural response to reaction to back pain to want to lie down and limit activity,” says Dr. Liu. “However, exercises can improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion, as well as reduce pain.” According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, (AAOS), 15 percent of patients eventually improve with nonsurgical modalities; however, 70 percent continue to experience problems that may require surgical intervention.

About Dr. Liu:
Kaixuan Liu, M.D., Ph.D., is a renowned endoscopic spine surgeon and founder of Atlantic Spine Center in Edison, New Jersey (http://www.atlanticspinecenter.com).Dr. Liu is certified by The American Board of Pain Medicine and The American Board of Anesthesiology, and is a member of The International Society for Advancement of Spine Surgery, The American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP), The American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM), The International Intradiscal Therapy Society (IITS), and The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA). He also serves as an international surgeon for The Spinal Foundations in England.

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