Lumbar spinal stenosis is the most common reason for musculoskeletal surgery in the United States. Currently, it is estimated that as many as 1.2 million Americans may already be suffering from the symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis.

Spinal stenosis results from the gradual degeneration of the bones, discs, muscles, and ligaments that make up the spine. The term “stenosis” literally means “choking,” and the condition is characterized by the compression of spinal nerve roots in the lower back. The most common symptoms associated with lumbar spinal stenosis include leg pain, weakness, and tingling or numbness that radiates from the lower back down through the legs.

As we age, our spines change. When we are young, our inter-vertebral disks have a high water content. As disks age they dry out and lose height or collapse. This puts pressure on the nerve roots in the spine.

Spinal nerves relay sensation in specific parts of your body. Pressure on the nerves can cause pain in the areas that the nerves supply. For example, pain in the buttocks that radiates down the back of the legs — called sciatica — is caused by this pressure in the lower vertebrae.

The traditional treatment protocol for lumbar spinal stenosis begins with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and narcotics, physical therapy, and pain management modalities such as epidural steroid injections. However, physical therapy exercises cannot reverse the cause of spinal stenosis; narcotics have limited effectiveness in that the patient develops a tolerance for them over time; and epidural steroid injections are likely to result in severe side effects. According to the National Institute of Health, over the long term, only 15% of patients will improve with non-surgical modalities, yet 70% will continue to experience pain. Therefore, most patients with lumbar spinal stenosis will, in time, require surgical intervention for a more definitive treatment.

A recent observational study examined the safety of minimally invasive lumbar decompression surgery by doing a review of patients treated with this procedure. Researchers found no serious complications with minimally invasive lumbar decompression surgery, and concluded that it was safer than similar spinal stenosis treatments. The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Pain Physician and represents survey data collected from 12 U.S. spine surgery centers.

After reviewing patient survey results, researchers concluded that there were no reports of serious complications, and that minimally invasive lumbar decompression spine surgery is much safer than “open” or instrumented fusion spine surgeries for the treatment of lumbar spinal stenosis.

The decision to have surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis usually depends on the degree of physical disability and disabling pain. Patients who have stopped responding to pain medications and other conservative treatments may consider the less invasive surgery now available.

To learn more about the Bonati Spine Institute visit call (855) 267-0482 or click here to arrange for a free MRI review by a surgeon.