Spinal nerve compression is a common problem that is typically not referred to in any other way than “my back hurts.” Some people may say that they have a pinched nerve. Regardless of what we call it, chronic pain in the neck or back is not something to ignore. Even though the idea of surgery can be intimidating, the chances of living with worsening pain should be even more so. Here, we want to discuss what spinal nerve compression is and how a minimally invasive surgical procedure can significantly improve your quality of life.
What is Spinal Nerve Compression?
The term spinal nerve compression may be used by a doctor to describe any condition that places pressure on the nerve roots that exit the spine or on the spinal cord itself. Several conditions may do this. You may know that the spinal cord is like the trunk of a tree. The central part of the spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that sits in the spinal canal, a tunnel within the spinal column. From this trunk, nerve roots branch off. These nerves exit spaces in between the vertebrae, the bones that make up the spine. Anytime the space within the spinal canal or spinal column narrows, a nerve becomes compressed. There are several reasons why this may happen, including:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Spinal injury
- Herniated spinal disc
- Spinal misalignment
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Spinal infection
- Spinal tumor
When a nerve is compressed, various symptoms may occur. Depending on the degree of compression, symptoms may be mild, moderate, or severe. These include:
- Neck or back pain
- Aching, numbness, or weakness in the extremities
- Radiating pain from the neck or back
- Sciatica pain through the buttock and back of the leg
Severe nerve compression can affect bladder or bowel control and the ability to walk. Medical intervention is critical in such instances, as permanent paralysis is a possibility.
Who Needs Spinal Decompression Surgery?
Outside of obviously severe symptoms, there are other indications that surgery may be the best approach to pain. Patients often consult with Dr. Lipani after conservative treatments such as medication and physical therapy have been ineffective at improving the quality of living. Back or neck pain that rapidly worsens or makes it difficult to stand or walk normally can indicate a structural problem that can be corrected with minimally invasive surgery.
We understand that spinal surgery is a daunting concept for most people. Due to vast improvements in surgical techniques, the recovery from spinal decompression procedures is generally milder than it once was. Patients may need prescription pain medication only for one to two weeks, after which their back or neck pain can be managed with over-the-counter pain relief. With rest and adherence to activity restrictions, such as avoiding lifting, comfort gradually improves day by day after spinal surgery.
Don’t let the idea of an uncomfortable or lengthy recovery keep you from obtaining the care you need for chronic neck or back pain. Contact our Princeton office at (609) 890-3400 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Lipani.