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Published on March 10, 2021

A New Treatment Option for Back Pain

By Todd Miller, MD, Neurointerventional Radiology

Looking for Minimally Invasive Back Pain Treatment?

Call 203.276.2362, option 2, to speak with a team member about spinal stenosis treatment at Stamford Health.  

Lumbar spinal stenosis, or the narrowing of the spinal canal, is a major cause of lower back pain.

A new, minimally invasive treatment option offered at Stamford Health may be able to help.

If you’re living with back pain, it can be hard to find effective relief, especially when you have spinal stenosis. “Back surgery” can be a scary prospect, but you may not need it! Dr. Todd S. Miller reveals more about a different option for your back pain.

How does spinal stenosis develop?

Spinal stenosis develops when your spine grows narrow in certain areas, which puts pressure on the nerves traveling through your spinal canal. 

What are the symptoms of spinal stenosis? 

The classic symptom of spinal stenosis is progressive pain in the legs when walking with an upright posture. Sitting, or walking with a bent posture like with a shopping cart, cane, or walker, often provides temporarily relief.

While it doesn’t always cause symptoms, spinal stenosis can lead to intense pain, numbness, tingling, and even muscle weakness. In most cases, these symptoms grow worse with time.

How is spinal stenosis treated? 

Sometimes, conservative measures like physical therapy or injections provide excellent relief of symptoms. Unfortunately, these do not work for everyone.

Oftentimes, patients are told they need a laminectomy or fusion surgery to correct spinal stenosis. You may be concerned about the invasive nature of surgery, potential complications, risks associated with other medical problems you may have (older age, heart disease, lung disease, etc) and general anesthesia.

You may also be worried about permanent changes to the spine and what it means if the procedure does not work. Prolonged recovery from a large wound and rehabilitation may also be a concern.

Fortunately, you don’t have to suffer from back pain, or have invasive surgery, even if you have spinal stenosis.

New and innovative minimally invasive surgical treatments, such as interspinous spacers, can provide pain relief. At Stamford Health, you can rely on our experienced team of specialists to bring you the most advanced pain relief solutions available for your back and nerve pain

What are interspinous spacers?

Interspinous spacers are a new approach to treating spinal stenosis that work gently and in a targeted way by opening the spinal canal to create room and reduce pressure on crowded nerves.

  • A spinous process is the part of your vertebra that projects backward from your vertebral arch. These areas are the parts of your spine that you can feel sticking out along your mid back.
  • By inserting an interspinous spacer deep into the space between two spinous processes, it can hold open your spine and stop your spinal nerves from being constricted and thereby relieve your symptoms.

What are the benefits of inserting an interspinous spacer vs. having a traditional "back" surgery?

Interspinous spacers offer several advantages over traditional fusion surgery for treating spinal stenosis:

  • The device is the size of a quarter, making it easy to be placed with local anesthesia and mild sedation through a very small incision. The procedure takes about 45 minutes and can be done on an outpatient basis, which means you can go home the same day!
  • Because of the innovative design of the device, the procedure for inserting the interspinous spacers doesn’t require any screws or hardware, which means less risk of infection or blood loss than with traditional surgery.   
  • This approach enables us to relieve your pain while safely preserving your spine, its range of motion and surrounding tissues. It also makes them removable in the future if needed.  
  • Newer kinds of spacers that have recently become available have more long-lasting results than similar previous generation devices that acted in a slightly different way. They also have less chance of causing a spinous process fracture or subsidence, uncommon complications that decrease their chance of working properly.
  • Based on a 5-year study, the procedure has a high success rate and low complication rate, and is completely reversible should you experience any issues. If needed, having an interspinous spacer does not get in the way of traditional spinal surgery.

What is the recovery like after interspinous spacer surgery?

You can go home the same day! After your procedure, we might recommend physical therapy to improve your muscle strength and flexibility. In most cases, you can resume normal activity in 2-6 weeks.

While the idea of “back surgery” may seem scary, minimally invasive procedures are nothing like traditional open back surgery. . Most people report a steep reduction in pain and some are immediately pain free!

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