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The highly skilled and well-trained spinal surgeons at Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital will evaluate patients with spinal stenosis and provide individualized treatment advice. Depending on the symptoms and severity of your condition, our doctors will choose from the many non-surgical and surgical treatment options available and come up with a plan that is right for you.
Spinal stenosis is a condition characterized by the abnormal narrowing of the spinal column, which is where the spinal cord runs. Stenosis usually occurs due to lesions or deposits inside the column. These lesions may affect any part of the spine, but they most commonly occur in the lower back and neck areas. Spinal stenosis can exert pressure on the spinal cord and its nerves.
The two types of spinal stenosis are lumbar stenosis and cervical stenosis. Lumbar spinal stenosis is more common, but cervical spinal stenosis causes more danger as it involves compression of the spinal cord.
Lumbar stenosis is associated with the compression of the spinal nerve roots in the lower back area, which causes symptoms linked to sciatica, such as tingling, weakness, or numbness radiating from the lower back and into the buttocks and legs (particularly when engaging in physical activity).
Cervical spinal stenosis is even more dangerous, as it compresses the spinal cord and leads to a series of serious symptoms, such as major weakness in the body and possibly paralysis. Spinal stenosis can develop as a result of advancing age, degenerative disc disease, and developmental problems in the spine before birth, and a number of other diseases, such as arthritis, scoliosis, osteoporosis and lordosis (sway back), obesity, genetics, or poor body posture.
Surgery for spinal stenosis is considered when non-surgical treatments fail to bring relief, or when the patient is immobilized due to their condition. The purpose of surgery is to alleviate the pressure on the spinal cord by increasing the space in the spinal canal. On an imaging test, if the spinal cord or nerves are found to be tightly squeezed, the doctor may recommend any of the following surgical procedures to relieve the pressure. This surgery may be done either from the front or back of the neck and involves the removal of some of the disc bones and tissue that may obstruct the nerve roots. In the case of patients who have severe spinal instability, spinal fusion is done in addition to decompression surgery. Spinal fusion involves removing a small piece of bone from the hip and grafting it onto the spine with metal plates and screws, which will give support and stability to the spine.
The surgical procedures used to treat spinal stenosis include:
All of these surgical procedures are performed to create additional space in the spinal canal and to relieve the symptoms of spinal stenosis disorders. However, following surgery, some patients may face different problems, such as infection, tearing of the membrane, blood clots in the legs or veins, and other neurological defects.
The treatment for stenosis may vary based on the location of the stenosis and the severity of the symptoms.
As the symptoms of spinal stenosis and the symptoms of age-related conditions are similar, diagnosis may be difficult. Imaging tests give an accurate view of the stenosis. Other diagnostic procedures used to confirm a stenosis diagnosis are:
Most patients diagnosed with spinal stenosis are over the age of 50. When spinal stenosis occurs in younger people, it may be due to a genetic disease affecting the bone and muscle development throughout the body. Advancing age is a major risk factor for lumbar spinal stenosis because it is associated with spinal degeneration. Another risk factor is osteoporosis, as this disease can cause compression and fracture of the lumbar vertebrae. The size of a patient's spinal canal and the degree of impingement of the surrounding ligaments and bones onto the spinal canal are also risk factors.
Most of the time, spinal stenosis develops when there is a reduction in the amount of space available within the spinal column. Causes of spinal stenosis may include:
Changes in the shape and size of the spinal canal are a major cause of cervical stenosis. Normally, these changes occur in people above the age of 50. Advancing age results in bulging of the spongy discs that sit in between the bones of the spine. The ligaments that connect the spinal bones may thicken or get destroyed, resulting in excessive growth of bones in the joints. These conditions can decrease the space in the spinal canal, which eventually leads to cervical spinal stenosis.
In some cases, the spinal canal is narrowed at birth as the result of developmental defects in the bones.
Hot or cold therapy: Application of heat or ice packs on the affected area of the neck or lower back can relieve the symptoms of the spinal stenosis to a certain extent.
Adopting healthy lifestyle habits can greatly contribute to preventing spinal stenosis. As a person gets older, their spinal bones are subjected to continuous wear and tear. Some proactive measures can help in preventing the wear and tear of the spine, and thus, in preventing the development of spinal stenosis. These measures include:
Are you experiencing symptoms of spinal stenosis? If you have lower back pain, or numbness and weakness in your legs, the spinal surgeons at Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital can help advise you on a course of treatment.
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