Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal. It is typically caused by degenerative changes to the spine over time, but can occur as a result of a motor vehicle accident or work-related injury. This can put pressure on the spinal cord and the nerve roots, which can lead to symptoms like pain, numbness, and difficulty walking.
As a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and fellowship-trained spine surgeon, Dr. Vigna has extensive experience with diagnosing and treating conditions like spinal stenosis. Though he is trained in spine surgery, he typically recommends nonsurgical options first. At reVive Spine Center, our team of specialists includes physical medicine and rehabilitation, interventional pain management, and chiropractic care to give patients a variety of treatment options. Surgery is considered when nonsurgical options do not provide sufficient relief from symptoms. Our goal is to help you live a pain-free life and get back to your favorite activities, and we will work with you to find the treatment that helps you achieve those goals.
Causes & Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis
Degenerative changes in the spine often occur as we age. Our discs lose water content, which may decrease the space between the vertebrae. This can transfer weight to the facet joints in the spine, which may over time develop arthritis due to the increased pressure.
When the facet joints develop arthritis, the body will sometimes respond by growing new bone in and around the joints. These new bone growths are called bone spurs, and they can narrow the space that the spinal nerves pass through. The ligaments around the joints may also expand, thereby narrowing the space for the nerves. This narrowed space can compress and irritate the nerves, causing painful symptoms. Dr. Vigna often compares spinal stenosis to having a clogged pipe.
Symptoms of spinal stenosis may include:
- Back pain
- Sciatica - burning pain that radiates down the leg
- Numbness or tingling in one or both of the arms or legs
- Weakness in one or both of the arms or legs as the condition worsens
- Pain that is worse while standing up straight and walking
- In the most severe cases, bladder and bowel control issues may occur. In these cases, surgery is necessary to correct the problem.
Often, patients with spinal stenosis in the lower back (lumbar spinal stenosis) will find relief from sitting or leaning forward. When shopping in the grocery store, these patients often feel relief when leaning over the shopping cart.
Dr. Vigna’s Process for Diagnosing Spinal Stenosis
Dr. Vigna believes that a thorough examination is key to providing an accurate diagnosis, and ultimately, providing the right treatment options for the patient.
In addition to a physical examination, x-rays may be ordered to check for misalignment or narrowing of the spinal canal and to see if any bone spurs are present. An MRI may also help identify problems with the discs, nerves, and soft tissues surrounding the spine. Nerve conduction studies, like EMG testing, may also be done if nerve damage is suspected.
Most importantly, Dr. Vigna takes the time to listen to his patients and ask the right questions to help them explain what they are experiencing. Many spine conditions produce similar symptoms, and often this conversation can help to identify the problem and determine the best treatment options.
Treatments for Spinal Stenosis
Unless a patient is experiencing severe symptoms like loss of bladder or bowel control, initial treatment is usually nonsurgical.
Nonsurgical Treatments for Spinal Stenosis
Dr. Vigna works closely with our chiropractor, Dr. Shaun Morgan, and our interventional pain management specialist, Dr. John Swinarski, to coordinate appropriate treatment and monitor results. Our doctors communicate with one another to adjust treatment plans as needed for the benefit of our patients.
Nonsurgical treatments for spinal stenosis may include:
- Chiropractic care - Chiropractic adjustments can provide relief for some patients.
- Physical therapy - Physical therapy may include stretches and strengthening exercises to provide relief from symptoms.
- Interventional pain management - Interventional pain management involves injections that allow patients to more easily work with physical therapy and chiropractic providers. These injections can also help determine the location of the problem.
Our #1 goal is to help our patients return to their normal activities without pain. If nonsurgical treatments do not help patients achieve these results, then surgery is considered.
Surgical Treatments for Spinal Stenosis
Dr. Vigna tailors his surgical recommendations to each patient’s needs and condition. Depending on the procedure selected and the patient’s overall health, some procedures may be done on an outpatient basis. Others may require a hospital stay.
Surgical procedures for spinal stenosis include:
- Laminectomy, or surgical spinal decompression
- Spinal fusion
- Minimally invasive spinal decompression
- Coflex interlaminar stabilization device
Learn about non-invasive Integrity Spinal Decompression
After surgery, patients may continue with physical therapy, if needed. Patients are often able to get up and walk the day of surgery. As the patient heals, Dr. Vigna and our team gradually increase the patient’s activity. When a patient has fully healed, they are encouraged to remain active and do the activities they love. After all, this is the primary reason that we recommend surgery--so that patients can have their normal lives back.
Spinal Stenosis Treatment in Western New York
Dr. Franco Vigna is board-certified orthopedic surgeon and is fellowship-trained in spine surgery. Though he is a skilled spine surgeon, he works with Dr. Swinarski and Dr. Morgan to help patients avoid or delay surgery when appropriate. With all of our specialists on the same team, our doctors can work closely with one another to optimize treatments for our patients. If surgery is needed, the procedure is also tailored to the individual patient. Our goal is to listen to your needs and provide the treatments that will help you live a pain-free life.