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Spinal Stenosis and Ways to Treat It

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Spinal Stenosis and Ways to Treat It

  • Dr. Charla Fischer
  • Dec 30, 2021

The term stenosis means that an opening of the body has become abnormally smaller or narrower than it should be. Therefore, spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal canal has narrowed and places pressure on the spinal cord.

The spine consists of a series of bones called vertebrae, which make up the spinal canal that provides a path for the spinal cord. The spinal cord begins at the base of the brain and descends down through the canal. There are openings on the sides of the vertebrae so that the spinal nerves can venture to other areas of the body in order to function normally. Usually there is sufficient room in the spinal canal for the spinal cord to have the space required for comfortable movement. When the canal gets smaller for some reason, that’s when stenosis comes into play.  Spine surgeon Dr. Charla Fischer in New York City is experienced in recognizing, diagnosing, and treating spinal stenosis.

There are several common reasons that spinal stenosis develops. If disc herniation occurs in which one or more spinal discs bulge into the canal, it can invade the spinal canal and create less space and affect the spinal cord. Another cause might be trauma from something like a car accident or fall that leads to excess bone growth. The resulting extra bone such as spurs or arthritis can cause the spinal canal to narrow. A common culprit of spinal stenosis is performing a job that places heavy, repetitive demands on the back. Examples include construction labor or healthcare like nursing home aids whose jobs cause bone buildup and subsequently spinal stenosis.

Spinal stenosis in the lower back typically causes back and leg pain. Stenosis in the cervical spine, or neck, may cause pain, limited mobility in the neck, or tingling or numbness in the upper extremities. 

Dr. Fischer treats spinal stenosis based on the location of the stenosis and the symptoms present. Mild symptoms may simply require monitoring and tips for home care. If symptoms are more persistent, further treatments may involve:

  • Medications ranging from over-the-counter remedies like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs, or opioids. Dr. Fischer prescribes medications cautiously to avoid long-term issues such as addiction.
  • Physical therapy to learn exercises to increase strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, and stability.
  • Steroid injections to reduce inflammation and provide pain relief, although the effects don’t last forever and it’s a remedy not a cure. Patients may be able to receive several injections a year if Dr. Fischer determines it is safe and effective.
  • Surgery is usually the last resort for spinal stenosis patients who do not have relief from other treatments. The primary goal of surgery is to create more space in the spinal canal so that pressure on the nerves and spinal cord is eliminated. Some common procedures to treat spinal stenosis are laminectomy, laminotomy, and laminoplasty. Dr. Fischer strives to perform minimally invasive spine surgery when possible so that patients have the benefits of a less invasive approach.

If you are faced with spinal stenosis and need to seek help from a specialist, contact Dr. Fischer today to schedule a consultation.

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