I was told last year that the pain in my back and legs is from spinal stenosis. Despite drugs, injections, and a brace, this problem is only getting worse. Would surgery help me?
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the opening for the spinal cord and spinal nerves. These pass through each of the bones from the neck to the low back. Surgery is one treatment option for stenosis. It’s usually used in cases such as yours where pain relief has been minimal. Nonsteroidal antiinflammatories (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and some prescription drugs are the first choice. Steroid injections, physical therapy, and bracing are also tried. When these fail, surgery to remove pressure on the spinal cord and spinal nerves can be done. This operation has good results for relief of symptoms. There are risks, though, especially for older patients. Another new option is the use of an implant. An oval-shaped spacer can be placed between the spinous processes of the vertebrae. This is the bump you feel that we call the “backbone.” It’s an extension from the main body of the vertebra. The implant puts the spine at that level in a slightly flexed position. This relieves the symptoms and allows the patient to walk again.