What causes problems is the inflammation of the spinal nerves that’s created when those structures start to put pressure on them
West Orange, NJ (PRWEB) April 30, 2013
Atlantic Spine Center in New Jersey announces updated web content on its website, http://www.atlanticspinecenter.com, related to spinal stenosis. The new material is designed to help educate and inform patients on the causes, symptoms, and treatments for this common condition.
According to Kaixuan Liu, MD, PhD, chief surgeon at Atlantic Spine Center, stenosis in the lumbar and cervical spine (the lower back and neck) is the source of pain in as many as 1.2 million Americans—mostly people over 60.
Spinal stenosis involves a narrowing of the spaces in the backbone, which creates pressure on the spinal cord or the nerves that branch out from it and can cause pain that ranges from barely noticeable to excruciating. “Picture the walls of someone’s spine slowly closing in on the spinal cord,” Dr. Liu explains. If the patient does nothing, he says, the walls will continue to move inward, eventually crushing the cord and leaving the affected section of the spine essentially useless—and the patient in enormous amounts of pain.
In the majority of cases, spinal stenosis is the result of the gradual degeneration that comes with aging: as we get older, Dr. Liu explains, the spine often starts to show signs of damage: ligaments can thicken and harden, osteophytes (or bone spurs) can develop, and arthritis can begin to damage the joints. At the same time, the discs (fluid-filled pockets that cushion each joint in the spine) also can deteriorate, resulting is disc bulges and herniations (tears in the outer disc membrane) that allow the gelatinous disc filling to protrude into the open spaces in the spine. These conditions, which are known as structural changes, are the most common cause of spinal stenosis.
Of course, the narrowing of the spinal canal itself doesn’t produce symptoms, Dr. Liu says. “What causes problems is the inflammation of the spinal nerves that’s created when those structures start to put pressure on them.” Thus, because it doesn’t produce symptoms on its own, spinal stenosis can be present in someone who hasn’t experienced any back pain at all—yet.
But as it progresses, spinal stenosis almost always creates problems, which typically include pain, weakness, or numbness. The location of stenosis symptoms is directly related to the location of the stenosis: a narrowing of the openings in the cervical spine might produce symptoms in the upper back, neck, and arms, while stenosis in the lumbar region is likely to cause problems in the lower back and legs. In extreme cases, spinal stenosis can also create a loss of motor function in the legs and even loss of normal bowel and bladder function. Many people with stenosis-related pain find that the discomfort lessens when they bend forward or sit (or lie) down.
Latest (and best) spinal stenosis treatments
In many cases, the symptoms of spinal stenosis can be managed with noninvasive treatments such as physical therapy, modified exercises, and medications. But in cases that don’t improve after several weeks of such conservative treatments—the pain is severe and is seriously affecting the patient’s life—surgery may be the best option.
Today surgeons perform a few types of minimally invasive endoscopic spinal stenosis surgery, which allow them to remove the bone spur, disc, or other structure that’s causing the stenosis (and the symptoms). “In these procedures,” Dr. Liu says, “we can resolve the problem and relieve the patient’s pain without subjecting him or her to the risks and downsides of traditional ‘open’ back surgery.” The procedures use very small incisions and local anesthesia, which translates to far fewer complications, quicker recovery, and much less pain for the patient.
About Dr. Liu: Kaixuan Liu, M.D., Ph.D., is a renowned endoscopic spine surgeon and founder of Atlantic Spine Center in West Orange, 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.