Has chronic back pain been a part of your life for as long as you can remember? Are you still struggling to find a treatment that works? If so, you should speak with your physician and request a check for spinal stenosis. Often the initial diagnosis for a back problem is wrong. Not because the physician is incompetent but because we are constantly learning more and more about back problems like spinal stenosis.
If however, your physician or surgeon recommends spinal fusion surgery you may want to get a second opinion.
What Is Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is simply a narrowing of the spinal canal that puts pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves surrounding the spine. This problem most often occurs in the cervical and lumbar regions of the spine and can lead to lower back pain and muscle numbness and weakness.
Not all patients with spinal stenosis suffers from back pain, which is astonishing when you consider that about 20% of adults experience back pain by the age of 40. That problem increases with age for that 20% with almost half of them experiencing a narrowing of the spinal column. Despite these small numbers, fusion surgery is almost always the recommended treatment for spinal stenosis.
For decades elderly patients suffering from spinal stenosis have experienced a growth in surgical recommendations as the main form of treatment. In fact a 2010 study indicates that the number of spinal fusion surgeries for spinal stenosis patients has risen sharply.
When it comes to spinal surgery, the same study found three basic categories of back surgery used:
- Decompression surgery — The bone is cut away from the area which it is pressing on the nerves in the spine.
- Fusion surgery (simple) — two vertebra are fused together permanently using a bone graft and possibly plates and screws.
- Fusion surgery(complex) — 3 or more vertebra are fused together or the vertebra are fused on the front and back of the spine
The most disturbing fact about this is that the costliest of most invasive of these 3 procedures–complex fusion surgery–is the one recommended and used 15 times more than the others.
Of course it’s possible that surgeons recommend this form of treatment because it produces the best results, unfortunately that is not the case. Thirteen percent of complex fusion surgery patients return within 30 days to the hospital for additional care and 20% of them need more surgery within a decade. The worst part of all is that these patients are an increased risk of post-surgical complications in the month after surgery.
What I hope you’ve gotten from this is that any form of spinal surgery is incredibly risky, especially when the low rate of success is factored into the equation. Just because your doctor recommends surgery does not make it the best solution for you, nor does is guarantee a successful outcome. There are other, less invasive, methods of treatment that should always be tried before surgery becomes an option.
Many spinal stenosis cases are just a result of aging, with a number of spinal problems contributing to its development such as a herniated disc, osteoporosis, calcification over-growth, and scar tissue build up. Because of this, we recommend using natural pain relief treatments for spinal stenosis as they have a high rate of success.
Nutrition is where you should begin your spinal stenosis treatment. You may get enough calcium through your diet as well as supplements, but oddly enough very few people get enough magnesium and vitamin D which can help balance the absorption of minerals.
Scar tissue buildup is often the result of chronic inflammation and excess fibrin. Both can be eliminated through the use of proteolytic systemic enzymes. There are many natural methods of getting these enzymes.
Correcting muscle imbalances that cause herniated discs will help restore the muscle balance thereby relieving pressure on the spinal discs. Even spinal decompression is a painless yet effective treatment. An inversion table or the Nubax can help decompress without a costly and risky surgery.
Lastly it is important that you know that spinal stenosis doesn’t automatically mean the origin of your pain is the spine, since we now know that a majority is caused by trigger points deep in the muscle tissue.
Written By: Updated: April 17,2010
8 thoughts on “Does Your Spinal Stenosis Require Fusion Surgery?”
i used the fenix trigger point self-care system for the first time for a sciatic nerve problem i had been experiencing for a couple weeks which i relate to wearing a pair of earth shoes an entire workday (i am a licensed massage therapist). i had a therapist work on trigger points manually but to no relief so i decided to try myself. the system offered relief from upper thigh and glute pain but seemed to “push” the pain into my entire knee which even swelled up a bit and then i felt a burning tinglind in my entire foot. did i use the system improperly?
hi joanna , if i understand correctly you are thinking that the shoes you where wearing caused a sciatic nerve problem , this is not so , sciatic nerve problem comes from a herniated or bulgeing disc in the lower back pressing on the spinal nerve ,the shoes only aggravated this previous condition , the sciatic pain can only be relieved by spinal decompression ie; time on a inversion table or on a nubax or similar stretches in conjunction with anti inflammitory medication , natural or prescribed , once you have relieved the pressure on the sciatic nerve only then will the trigger point therapy and massage work in resetting the muscles that have been upset , a bit like step 1 and step 2 , you must do one before the other , this is my experience , hope it helps you
ps please be carefull if your feet are tingling or getting pins and needles this means it is quite serious and you are on the verge of doing some serious damage to your lower back , you need to be very carefull in your daily life not to lift any thing at all or sit with poor posture , and especially not to work bent over slightly or leaning forward , this is the worst possible position for you lower back , tingling feet is a big warning sign to be very carefull not to over do it
believe me , the pain will only get much worse if you don’t take some action and make some changes straight away
Great article. Always best to try the more conservative approach to spinal problems than to just at the knife. There are often secondary problems down the road after spinal surgeries, and also complications from the sugeries. Great blog!
I am seeing a chiropractor once a week for seven weeks. I have felt little improvrment . How many sessions does it take to really see improvement?
Joy, I do use chiropractic, however I have noticed that if I do not feel noticable improvement after 2 or 3 visits then it usually does not help with the particular problem.
thank you for your information on the computer…i have not written to you before….
but at this stage i am reading your info with interest…i am having back treatment in Australia
(disc,s) (stenosis) (sciatica)
Bl….dy LOW back pain have had 12 months of injections etc. etc.
my local G.P. has now switched to trigger point and acapuncture method …..and physio. hydro.gym. etc etc . please leave me on you,r mailing list kind regards
I have been told I have cervical stenosis and need an urgent operation. My symptoms are pain and tingling in my hands and arms, all the time and now marked weakness on my left side. I have also got a disc bulge that is pressing on the cord. It is suggested that I have the disc removed all the associated holes widened and a plate and screws put in. I would really like not to have this done, but am now 3 years on from that diagnosis with no real relief. I have some of your heal and soothe coming and would like to know of anyone out there with similar experience who could suggest if it is worth doing this procedure. Bottom line is I am afraid and would dearly love someone to say you don’t need this but so far everyone who has seen me has said I need this. Even the muscle rebalance chap I’ve been seeing lately. Thanks
I am a 74 yr old ex runner with a knee (actually spinal stenosis) problem. After 34 yrs of running long distances (5K to marathons) on hard pavement I was forced to quit three years ago because of the pain of osteoarthritis in my right knee and left ankle.
I went for knee replacement surgery two years ago which resulted with a burning sensation that persists to this day. My surgeon, in desperation, decided to examine my back and after several tests I was diagnosed with spinal stenosis plus severe scoliosis in the lumbar region of my spine. My surgeon says that the nerves going through my spine and down my leg is interfering with the healing of my knee.
This burning pain, BTW, is keeping me from walking more than a half hour at a time, which is bad because hiking for mid to long distances has been my first love ever since I became a hiker at age 11.
My surgeon says he can ‘probably’ (no guarantee ‘tho) ‘fix’ my problem with back surgery. I’ve always been very leery of any kind of back (spinal) surgery, so let me ask you if surgery would be a worthwhile risk for me to take. I can walk around for a few minutes at a time only with the aids of Capzacin and constant icing, but I’m really longing to get back to my hikes in the woods, fields, and mountains.
I am hearing impaired, so my best form of communication is by emailing.