Spine & Neurosciences Institute

Spinal Stenosis

What is spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is a condition that refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal, which is the space where the spinal cord passes through vertebrae.  When the narrowing occurs, it causes nerve pinching and sometimes spinal stenosis symptoms can be severe enough to warrant spinal stenosis surgery. There are different types of spinal stenosis, depending on where exactly the narrowing occurs on the spinal canal. 

Some common spinal stenosis symptoms include:

  • Pain in the lower back or buttocks when walking or doing other activities.

  • Pain that radiates into one or both legs.

  • Numbness or weakness in the lower extremities.

  • Inability to find relief from pain relieving medications.

  • Relief from symptoms when bending forward, lying down or sitting.

  • Less physical endurance.

Spinal stenosis surgery

When you are first diagnosed with spinal stenosis, you will likely receive a conservative treatment of rest, physical therapy, pain medication and support devices prior to having spinal stenosis surgery. If your pain and discomfort continues or fails to get better after an initial time period, your doctor will discus surgery options.

If you and your doctor agree that spinal stenosis surgery will improve your quality of life, there are a number of surgical options to help you with your pain, including minimally invasive spinal surgery.

Laminectomy & Laminotomy

During a laminectomy, an incision is made in the middle of the back to remove the lamina from the vertebrae that are causing pain. The lamina is a flat area of bone that is attached to the vertebrae.

During a laminotomy, only part of the lamina is removed to take pressure off the pinched nerve.

Spinal fusion surgery

During spinal fusion surgery, surgeons permanently fuse, or lock together, two or more bones in your spine. Traditional spinal fusion surgery requires a long incision in the middle of the back, or the front side of the body to give surgeons access to the specific areas of the vertebrae that are the sources of the problem.

Spinal fusion surgery performed in the neck is called cervical fusion, while surgery performed on the back is called lumbar fusion. Fusing the bones together can ease the pain associated with spinal stenosis because it limits the movement of these bones, but it also can affect your flexibility.

Minimally invasive spinal surgery

Minimally invasive spinal surgery offers many benefits over traditional surgery because it uses smaller incisions, which results in less blood loss during surgery, a shorter hospital stay, less post-operative pain and smaller scars.

While traditional surgeries are viable options, surgeons at the Aspirus Spine & Neurosciences Institute offer minimally invasive spinal surgery, which uses an endoscope – a lighted tube with a camera – and other surgical instruments to view the problem area and make the necessary corrections without needing a large incision. One type of minimally invasive spinal surgery Aspirus offers is lumbar fusion surgery.

Patients who undergo minimally invasive lumbar fusion surgery to correct chronic back pain caused by degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis and other conditions are typically waling sooner and are often able to return to daily activities much faster thatn they could with the traditional method of surgery. Always discuss your options with your doctor to determine which type of surgery is best for you.