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Facts and Tips about Spinal Stenosis

Non-surgical Treatment of Spinal Stenosis

There are a number of ways a doctor can treat stenosis without surgery. These include:

  • Medications, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce swelling and pain, and analgesics to relieve pain.
  • Corticosteroid injections (epidural steroids) can help reduce swelling and treat acute pain that radiates to the hips or down the leg. This pain relief may only be temporary and patients are usually not advised to get more than 3 injections per 6-month period.
  • Rest or restricted activity (this may vary depending on extent of nerve involvement).
  • Physical therapy and/or prescribed exercises to help stabilize the spine, build endurance and increase flexibility.
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Surgical Treatment of Stenosis

  • In many cases, non-surgical treatments do not treat the conditions that cause spinal stenosis, however they might temporarily relieve pain. Severe cases of stenosis often require surgery. The goal of the surgery is to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerve by widening the spinal canal. This is done by removing, trimming, or realigning involved parts that are contributing to the pressure.

  • The most common surgery in the lumbar spine is called decompressive laminectomy in which the laminae (roof) of the vertebrae are removed to create more space for the nerves. A surgeon may perform a laminectomy with or without fusing vertebrae or removing part of a disc. Various devices (like screws or rods) may be used to enhance fusion and support unstable areas of the spine.

    Other types of surgery to treat stenosis include the following:

  • Laminotomy - when only a small portion of the lamina is removed to relieve pressure on the nerve roots;
  • Foraminotomy - when the foramin (the area where the nerve roots exit the spinal canal) is removed to increase space over a nerve canal. This surgery can be done alone or along with a laminotomy;

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This information is not designed to replace a physician's independent judgment about the appropriateness or risks of a procedure for a given patient.
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