Spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal, is a common condition that causes significant pain for many people. Because nerves are affected, depending on which nerve is involved, you may also experience discomfort, tingling, and other problematic symptoms in your legs or arms.
Dr. Phillip Lim is an interventional pain specialist who is double-board certified in anesthesiology and pain management. He often sees patients with spinal stenosis in his busy practice, NuVation Pain Group, located in Buena Park and Los Angeles, California.
Dr. Lim is very pleased with the positive results his patients experience with interspinous spacers and often recommends this treatment to relieve pain and other symptoms related to lumbar (lower back) spinal stenosis.
What causes spinal stenosis?
There is normally enough space in the openings of the spinal column for nerves to comfortably branch out from the spine, such as the sciatic nerve that connects the spine to the muscles in your buttocks, backs of the thighs, and lower legs and feet.
When the size of these openings is reduced, however, nerve root impingement can occur. Spinal stenosis can also affect the spinal cord by limiting the available space in the spinal canal and compressing nerves there.
Changes in the size or shape of the spinal canal are usually related to aging, but may also occur as the result of an injury, hereditary disorder, or other concern, including:
- Thickening and hardening of the spinal ligaments
- Development of bone spurs
- Herniated discs
- Slipped vertebrae
Any of these conditions can cause spinal stenosis and result in significant pain and other symptoms that may interfere with your daily activities.
What are interspinous spacers?
An interspinous spacer is a small device that’s implanted into your spine during a minimally invasive surgical procedure. It’s designed to sit permanently between two interspinous processes in your lower back, but is not attached via screws or other hardware. This means the natural anatomy of the spine is preserved, and the spacer can be removed in the future if desired.
How do interspinous spacers relieve pain from spinal stenosis?
The spacer implant is designed to keep the space between your spinous processes open and reduce the pressure on your spinal nerves, which helps prevent compression or pinching of the affected nerves.
Along with relieving your pain, an interspinous spacer can also relieve nerve-related symptoms such as:
- Cramping discomfort in the legs or buttocks
- Numbness or tingling in the lower back, buttocks, and legs
- Weakening in the muscles of the legs
What are the benefits of interspinous spacers compared to laminectomy?
Because the spacer restores a more normal width to the spinal canal without bone removal or significant trauma to muscle and ligaments, you can expect less pain and a faster recovery compared to a traditional laminectomy.
Other benefits include:
- Less blood loss during the procedure
- Decreased risk of infection
- Increased preservation of spinal motion
What is the procedure like?
Under specialized X-ray imaging that provides guidance for the positioning of the implant, Dr. Lim makes one small incision in your lower back and implants the spacer in the targeted area. The procedure takes 15-45 minutes to perform, depending on the number of spacers being implanted (up to two). Dr. Lim may recommend physical therapy to help speed your recovery and improve the strength and flexibility of your muscles.
For further details about the drug-free pain relief offered by interspinous spacers, schedule a visit with Dr. Lim at NuVation Pain Group today. Call the office, or book your visit online.