Did you know that over 80% of American adults experience back pain in their lifetime? If back or neck pain is preventing you from enjoying the activities you used to love, spinal stenosis could be the reason.
Ajay Kumar, MD, DABPM, and the team at New Jersey Advanced Pain Management Center in Hackettstown, and Fair Lawn, New Jersey, Matamoras, Pennsylvania, and Middletown, New York, provide the best in spinal stenosis diagnosis and treatment. Here’s a look at what causes this condition and how we can help you get back to doing the things you love.
Understanding spinal stenosis
Your lower back, or lumbar spine, has five large vertebrae, each with two facet joints and a large, bony disc. These components of the vertebrae help you move and protect your spinal cord, which is in a canal in the center of your vertebrae.
As you age or because of other triggers like trauma, this canal can narrow. When this happens, your spinal cord has less space, causing additional pressure on the nerves and spinal cord. This condition is called spinal stenosis.
You may not have noticeable symptoms in the early stages of spinal stenosis, but the condition is degenerative and symptoms usually develop and worsen over time. Symptoms of spinal stenosis include:
- Lower back pain
- Sciatica (shooting pains down buttocks and leg)
- Numbness in buttocks or leg
- Decreased mobility
- Weakness in your leg or foot
- Tingling or numbness in one leg
- Pain or cramping after standing or walking
- Pain relief when leaning forward or sitting
- Trouble with balance
In the most severe cases, spinal stenosis may cause incontinence or paralysis.
Most common causes of spinal stenosis
Spinal stenosis is linked to age, with most cases occurring after age 60. This is because your spinal canal naturally narrows with age. Here’s a closer look at four of the most common causes of spinal stenosis:
1. Lumbar arthritis
Over time, your joints wear. In fact, by age 50, nearly all adults have some degree of spinal degeneration, though not all people experience noticeable symptoms.
Your risk of developing arthritis, a condition that involves the wear and tear of cartilage, inflammation, and bone spurs, also increases with age. If you develop lumbar arthritis, the bone spurs can invade your spinal canal and accelerate spinal stenosis.
2. Herniated discs
Your spinal discs cushion the space between each vertebra with their soft, gel-like center and rubbery exterior. Discs can degenerate over time due to gradual, age-related wear and tear, making them more likely to tear or rupture.
This is called a herniated disc, and it causes some of the gel-like center to push through the exterior into the spinal canal, narrowing the canal and putting pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.
3. Prior surgery or spinal injury
Having had prior spinal surgery increases your risk of developing spinal stenosis as does having a previous spinal injury. Bone material from the injury or scar tissue may enter the spinal canal and cause it to narrow, triggering spinal stenosis.
4. Lumbar Spondylolisthesis
Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which one vertebrae slips out of place onto the vertebra below it. When this occurs, it causes narrowing of the spine resulting in spinal stenosis.
Treating spinal stenosis
At New Jersey Advanced Pain Management Center, Dr. Kumar develops a personalized treatment plan customized to alleviate your pain and improve your mobility and spinal function for the long term.
Dr. Kumar typically begins treatment using more conservative methods that help reduce and manage your pain. Your spinal stenosis care plan may include:
- Physical therapy
- Pain medications
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Anticonvulsant medication
- Spinal injections (epidural injections)
For patients who don’t respond to the above conservative measures, Dr. Kumar may recommend minimally invasive spinal decompression procedure called the VertiflexTM procedure.
Understanding the Vertiflex procedure
This minimally invasive interspinous process decompression (IPD) procedure provides patients suffering from lumbar spinal stenosis long-term relief from the pain associated with the condition.
The outpatient Vertiflex procedure involves placing a small spacer with arms inside your spine. Once in place, Dr. Kumar activates the spacer’s arms, creating more space for the affected nerves and reducing pressure on them.
This allows Dr. Kumar to ease the leg and back pain associated with lumbar spinal stenosis with no need for removing tissues or bones. The procedure doesn’t require you to undergo general anesthesia, and it’s safe and effective, with over 90% of patients experiencing dramatic results.
Learn more about spinal stenosis and its treatments by contacting Dr. Kumar at New Jersey Advanced Pain Management Center. You can call us to schedule or use our online booking system.