Don't wait any longer to find relief for your spinal stenosis.
Spinal stenosis is the abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal, which is the passageway that houses nerve roots and the spinal cord. When this happens, the spinal nerves can become compressed, pinched, irritated, or damaged, which prevents them from carrying sensory, motor, and autonomic signals from the body to the brain and vice-versa.
Although this condition is often a consequence of aging or degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis, multiple risk factors and causes might come into play. Let’s look at these below.
Aging – and the consequent degeneration of tissue in the spine – is the single most significant risk factor for spinal stenosis. As we age, ligaments thicken and calcify, bones enlarge, and we experience a natural loss of cartilage between the spinal joints.
These changes can alter the spine’s structure and mechanics, thus adding pressure to the nerve roots.
Bone overgrowth (also known as bone spurs) is often a consequence of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. When these diseases wear down the cartilage between the spinal joint’s components, the body’s healing mechanism responds by creating new hard tissue.
These bony growths can occur on the vertebrae and extend into the spinal canal, thus compressing and pinching the local nerve roots.
The vertebrae are separated by vertebral disks, which are cushions of cartilage responsible for keeping the spine’s movements fluid and friction-free.
These shock absorbers can dry out and harden as we age, making them more likely to crack. When this happens, the internal gel-like liquid can bulge out and press on the nerves in the spinal canal.
Direct trauma to the spine or nearby structures, including fractures, broken bones, dislocations, and torn ligaments or tendons, can alter the spine’s mechanics and compress the nerve roots in the spinal canal.
Ligaments play a vital role in binding the spinal joints together and keeping the spine healthy and flexible. However, aging and diseases (such as arthritis) can cause these ligaments to become thicker and larger and eventually bulge into the spinal canal, causing local pressure on the nerves.
Diseases (such as tumors and spinal cord cysts) can narrow the space in the spinal canal, thus leading to compressed nerve roots and spinal stenosis.
Several congenital and inherited problems can increase the risk of spinal stenosis. These include:
Spinal stenosis is a degenerative condition. This means that you might not have any symptoms in the beginning. However, these symptoms will develop over time and worsen as nerve damage progresses. Learning to recognize the initial signs of this condition is critical to finding an adequate treatment plan and preventing further damage.
Most commonly, spinal stenosis happens in the lower back (lumbar spinal canal) or in the neck area (cervical spinal canal). The symptoms you’ll experience will depend on what part of the spine is affected.
Chronic pain is one of the main symptoms of spinal stenosis, and it can appear as a dull ache, tenderness, or burning sensation. Painful sensations stem from pinched and compressed nerves, which might misfire and send pain signals to the brain.
If spinal stenosis affects motor movements, it can inhibit movement signals from traveling correctly from the muscles to the brain. This can lead to involuntary movements, such as cramps, spasms, and fasciculations.
Damaged sensory nerves might not be able to send signals relating to pain, touch sensation, vibration, and temperature to the brain, which can lead to numbness and “pins and needles” sensations. Depending on whether the cervical or lumbar section of the spine is compressed, you might experience pain in your arms, hands, legs, feet, or buttocks.
When the nerve roots in the spinal canal are compressed, they can’t properly transmit signals relating to your body’s position in space. This translates to a loss of balance and a lack of coordination.
As the damage to motor nerves progresses, you might experience a loss of function in the extremities. For example, you might notice that the movements of your hand, arm, leg, or foot become clumsy, and actions such as buttoning your shirt can become challenging.
If nerve damage and compression deriving from spinal stenosis affect autonomic nerves, you might begin to suffer from autonomic dysfunction. This happens when the nerves responsible for transmitting signals to the brain related to heartbeat, digestion, sweating, and other functions such as blood pressure become inhibited. In severe cases, this translates into a loss of bowel, bladder, and sexual function.
People with spinal stenosis often consider taking pain-relievers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or steroid injections to manage their pain. In severe cases, patients might need to undergo surgery to decompress the affected nerve roots (laminectomy) or create more space in the spinal canal (laminoplasty). These procedures are invasive and involve weeks or months of rehabilitation.
Fortunately, innovative regenerative orthopedic options such as bone marrow concentration and platelet-rich plasma can help you manage your condition without or surgery. Let’s look at the regenerative treatments offered at Orthagenex that combine to offer each patient an individualized treatment plan.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) refers to autologous blood samples that have been processed to have platelet concentrations that are 10-40 times higher than baseline levels using a laboratory setting. The use of PRP in regenerative medicine has received significant interest, due to its ability to deliver high concentrations of growth factors precisely and non-invasively to an area in need.
PRP procedures involve injecting the body’s own healing factors (platelets) into the injured tissue using image guidance with fluoroscopy and MSK ultrasound. This procedure can be used to treat a variety of orthopedic conditions, including joint instability, minor arthritis, ligament, and tendon injuries, and strains.
More than 30 randomized controlled trials have been carried out on the effectiveness of PRP to support the body’s ability to heal naturally by stimulating the stem cells within the targeted area.
Stem cells are an essential component of the human body and play an important role in the repair of injured bones, ligaments, tendons, and other tissues. However, when we age or suffer an injury, the body may become unable to deliver enough stem cells to the area in need.
To help with this, bone marrow concentrate procedures at Orthagenex use imaging guidance to deliver concentrated bone marrow containing stem cells to the area in need. This encourages the body’s inherent ability to heal itself by replenishing cell population in the injured area.
In practice, bone marrow concentrate procedures are carried out by cannulating the bone near the pelvis with a trocar, a sharp-tipped device. This provides a narrow tunnel that can be used to collect samples of the bone marrow’s liquid component, which is rich in stem cells.
BMC procedures can assist patients in improving their spinal health and mobility without the lengthy and painful rehabilitation periods associated with surgery.
Suffering from spinal stenosis can have a profound impact on your everyday life, and it is only normal to look for a long-term solution that can ease your pain and improve your spine’s health. Fortunately, surgery and medications aren’t the only options.
If you are ready to improve control over your health, life, and spine flexibility, the regenerative treatments offered at Orthagenex can help.
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