Spinal stenosis is one of several conditions that can get in the way of an active, comfortable way of living. It involves the narrowing of the spaces within the spinal canal. As a result of the narrowing, the one or more of the nerve roots that travel through the spinal column can become compressed. Nerve compression can lead to a number of uncomfortable symptoms. Patients do not always experience pain, but they may experience things like tingling, numbness, or weakness along the path of the compressed nerve. Spinal stenosis may occur anywhere along the spinal column, but is usually seen in the cervical and lumbar regions. When symptoms of a compressed nerve occur, it is beneficial to see a specialist sooner rather than later. Early diagnosis and treatment may help a person postpone, if not avoid, surgery.
Treatment usually proceeds as follows:
People who have experienced a back injury or have persistent back or neck pain should not address their issue with nothing but rest. Physical movement is vital to tissue healing and, when it comes to the spinal structure, specific physical therapy exercises are most beneficial. The point of physical therapy for a spinal injury is not to correct the structural problem but to increase the support that the spine gets from surrounding muscles. A physical therapy program may include stretches to improve the flexibility around the spine as well as targeted movements to strengthen back and core muscles.
Back and neck pain are often treated first with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication or pain relievers. If pain is severe or gets worse, a doctor may prescribe these medications. A neurosurgeon or spine specialist may get right to the root cause of inflammation by administering injections of corticosteroid medication. This clinical treatment bypasses the stomach so can achieve better and longer-lasting pain-relief.
As much as possible, doctors attempt to treat back and neck pain with conservative, nonsurgical therapies. However, because these cannot correct structural problems, there may come a point at which surgery is the next best step. For spinal stenosis, surgical options include discectomy, decompression and fusion, and laminectomy. The surgeon determines the best technique based on the reason for the narrowing within the spinal canal.
Dr. Lipani provides care at several New Jersey locations, including Hamilton, Bridgewater, and Morristown. To get a better understanding of your back or neck pain, contact our main office in Princeton at (609) 890-3400.