Classic film star Bette Davis once said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” Boy, was she right.
As we age, our bodies change and, if we’re lucky, we only develop minor aches and pains. But if you’re not that fortunate, you can develop more painful physical problems, one being lumbar stenosis.
Lumbar stenosis occurs when the vertebrae (bones), muscles and ligaments that make up the spinal column start to degenerate and the nerves in the lower back become compressed by a bulging disc, a herniated disc, a bone spur or other protrusion.
This condition often leads to symptoms such as sciatica (leg pain); claudication (leg pain with walking); or a tingling sensation, weakness or numbness that radiates from the lower back into the buttocks and legs. As these symptoms worsen, they may become debilitating.
The good news, however, is that there are multiple non-surgical and surgical options to treat lumbar stenosis. These include:
Medication – As recommended by your doctor, anti-inflammatory medications such pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), naproxen (Aleve), and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can temporarily ease the discomfort of spinal stenosis. On a longer-term basis, antidepressants, such as amitriptyline and anti-seizure drugs like Neurontin and Lyrica, can help reduce pain caused by damaged nerves.
Physical therapy – It’s a vicious cycle: there is a tendency among spinal stenosis sufferers to become less active to reduce their pain but that can lead to muscle weakness and even more pain. Instead, a physical therapist can introduce you to exercises aimed at enhancing the flexibility and stability of your spine, building strength and endurance, and improving your balance.
Steroid injections – Pinched nerve roots can become irritated and swollen in specific spots. Although injecting corticosteroids into that affected area won’t resolve the stenosis, it can help reduce the pain and inflammation. A word of caution, however; reliance on or receiving repeated steroid injections is known to weaken nearby bones and connective tissue. Steroid injections should not be your “go to” cure to treat lumbar stenosis.
Integrative medicine and alternative therapies – such as massage therapy, chiropractic treatment, and acupuncture – may also be used along with conventional treatments to help you manage your spinal stenosis pain.
Minimally Invasive Treatment
If these conservative measures fail to relieve your lumbar stenosis, there are minimally invasive procedures for you and your doctor to consider, one of which is a decompression procedure in which portions of the affected ligament in the back of your spinal column are removed. This increases spinal canal space and eliminates nerve root impingement.
Invasive, Surgical Procedures
If other treatments are ineffective or if you’re disabled due to your symptom, you may want to consider surgery. In fact, surgery is often the most effective way to resolve spinal stenosis symptoms. Examples of spinal stenosis surgical procedures include:
Laminectomy, which involves the removal of the back part (lamina) of the affected vertebra to ease pressure on the nerves. To maintain the spine’s strength, the vertebra may need to be linked to adjoining vertebrae using metal hardware and a bone graft.
Laminotomy, a procedure in which only a portion of the lamina is removed.
Laminoplasty. Performed on the vertebrae in the neck a laminoplasty opens up open spaces within the spinal canal to allow for placement around the spine of metal hardware to relieve pressure and pain.
Don’t let back pain slow you down. If you’re interested in or have questions about any of these treatment options, discuss them with your doctor. The doctors at Pain Specialists of Austin are dedicated to providing the pain solutions that are crucial to getting you back on your feet and doing the activities you love. To learn more about lumbar stenosis treatment options, and our pain management methods, call (855) 876-7246 for an appointment today. We have 10 convenient locations in and around Austin, Texas. You can also request an appointment online.