Your nerves travel in and out of your spinal column, a slender tube that runs the length of your back and neck. There’s not much wiggle room in your spinal spaces, so any deformity, injury, or inflammation can easily compress your nerves and cause pain, weakness, and numbness.
At Neuropathy and Pain Centers of Texas, our team of experienced physicians understands the pain and disability that come with spinal stenosis, and we offer cutting-edge treatments that can get you back to your active routine. But can these treatments actually reverse spinal stenosis?
To answer that, we need to take a closer look at the causes of spinal stenosis and the goals of treatment.
The many causes of spinal stenosis
Spinal stenosis can occur anywhere in your spinal column, but the most frequent spots are in your lower back (lumbar canal stenosis) and your neck (cervical spinal stenosis).
Several conditions can lead to spinal stenosis, including
- Thickened ligaments
- Spinal fractures
- Bulging or herniated discs
- Bone spurs
- Tumors and cysts
It’s even possible to be born with spinal stenosis due to a congenital condition that results in a narrow spinal canal.
How narrow is too narrow?
Your spine is unique, and the space inside is different from everyone else’s. However, we use standards to determine normal ranges so we can accurately diagnose spinal stenosis.
For example, the average diameter of an adult male’s cervical canal is about 17-18 mm. It tapers on the way down to about 12-14 mm. If you’re a man with only 10 mm of space in your cervical region, you have cervical spinal stenosis.
For reference, a AA battery is about 13.5-14.5 mm in diameter.
The lumbar (lower) region of your spinal canal is wider and also has a wider range of “normal” diameter— 15-27 mm — so a diameter of 14 mm means different things to different patients. We need to first determine what’s normal for you before we can diagnose spinal stenosis.
Can spinal stenosis be reversed?
There’s no cure for spinal stenosis, but there are treatments available to help you manage the symptoms, and in many cases, our patients feel “cured.”
The success of treatments and the level of your relief hinge on the nature of your spinal stenosis. For example, if you have a herniated disc that’s encroaching on the space in your spine, repairing the disc restores the open space and alleviates your symptoms.
However, arthritis can thicken your ligaments and cause them to take up space in your spinal column. This type of spinal stenosis, as well as others, such as congenital spinal stenosis, are incurable, but definitely manageable.
If you have a mild case of spinal stenosis, you may only need conservative treatments, such as hot and cold therapy and exercises that build strength and increase flexibility.
If inflammation is the main culprit, we may recommend laser treatments or corticosteroid injections. Spinal decompression can also restore some of the limited space in your spine by gently relieving the pressure on your vertebral discs.
While surgery is an option, we don’t recommend it until you’ve tried all the other available treatments. Most types of spinal stenosis respond well to lifestyle changes and pain management methods. However, if your pain is intolerable, your balance and gait are affected, or you’ve lost bladder or bowel control, it’s time to consider surgery.
Types of spinal stenosis surgery
When surgical intervention becomes necessary for spinal stenosis, we use the most minimally invasive techniques possible to preserve healthy tissue, reduce risks, and speed up recovery time. Depending on the cause of your spinal stenosis, we may perform:
- Laminectomy, which removes a portion of your vertebra
- Laminoplasty, which implants a hinge into your neck area and provides more space
- Foraminotomy, tissue removal at the points where nerves enter and exit
- Interspinous spacers, insertion of expanders that create more space
- Spinal fusion, permanent fusion of two unstable vertebrae to avoid painful movement
Because spinal stenosis surgeries are somewhat risky and not always successful, our team works with you to prevent surgery whenever possible.
To find out for sure whether you have spinal stenosis, and if so, which treatment is the best fit for your condition, schedule an appointment at Neuropathy and Pain Centers of Texas. We have four locations in Fort Worth, Arlington, Waco, Wichita Falls. Call us today or book an appointment online.