Nearly 12 to 21 % of the older population suﬀers from this disabling ailment Lumbar Canal Stenosis curse to Graceful aging:
In simple words Lumbar canal stenosis is the loss of space and narrowing of the spinal canal, causing compression of the spinal nerves. It is said that nearly 12 to 21 percent of the older population suﬀers from this disabling ailment throughout the world and the percentage is increasing with the aging population.
Symptoms may start from the early fifties and progress as the age advances. In olden times it was assumed that life slows down after retirement, but this thinking has changed now, It is said that life begins at 40, where you start to enjoy life and after retirement, the aspirations are even higher. Age is just a number, by that, it means that people are active after sixty and young at heart.
But the disabling back pain and leg pain of spinal stenosis is a curse of old age.
What is Spinal stenosis:
The basic spinal structure is like a canal formed by series of spinal bones with plenty of space normally to allow safe passage for the spinal cord and nerves, each segment of the spine is formed by two spinal bones and the intervertebral disc in between. Due to degeneration and aging, this shock-absorbing disc slowly bulges and ruptures and it reduces in height. This leads to other changes like arthritis and enlargement of spinal joints ( Facets ), thickening, and buckling of covering ligaments. All these changes make the space inside the spinal canal narrows, resulting in pinching of spinal nerves, causing irritation and inflammation (Swelling ).
Usually, these changes are felt in old age but in some people, the spinal canal is narrow by birth and these people can feel the symptoms much earlier in life. Due to the sneezing of spinal nerves and swelling following symptoms may be felt in the back and leg.
- Numbness or tingling in the foot or leg
- Burning sensation in the sole
- Feeling of vague heaviness in the legs and feet
- Pain in the back and one or both legs
- Cramps in the calf or legs, disturbing sleep at night
- Feeling of pins/needles in the legs and feet
- Pain, burning or tingling in the back
- Pain or cramps in the legs on walking or standing.
- Pain is initially reduced on bending forwards or rest
- Weakness in the legs
- Problem in balancing
- Urinary problems like urgency increased frequent or diﬃculty
- Sudden severe compression of nerves can cause paralysis or incontinence.
- Proper analysis of the patient and MRI can pin point the exact level in the spinal canal and also the grading of the narrowing. In the initial stages, it is treated by specific medicines to relieve pain, reduce inflammation and swelling of the spinal nerves and improve the functioning of the nerves.
- Advice regarding proper posture, ideal weight, lifestyle modification is given according to the analysis. Exercises and physiotherapy to reduce the pain and symptoms are prescribed.
- Moderately severe pain can be managed by Injection at the specific spots in the spine to reduce the swelling of the nerves and reduce pain.
- Severe compression is treated with surgery, the aim is to decompress the nerves by enlarging the spinal canal by cutting the spinal bones and in some cases fusion of the spinal segments with metal implants to stop motion at the painful area.
- Advancing age also brings with it other problems like High blood pressure, Diabetes, Heart, Lung and Kidney problems, Obesity, which all make it diﬃcult for major surgery and anesthesia.
- Softening of bones and degeneration can accelerate problems in aging spine and would require extensive surgery.
- To overcome the problems encountered in the open spine surgery, spine surgery has evolved into Endoscopic Spine surgery.
Advantages of Endoscopic Spine surgery:
- It can be done through a very small cut ( Key hole ), preventing damage to the already weakened spinal structure.
- The incision is so small ( Less than a centimeter) that it can be stitch-less or require just 2-3 stitches.
- The endoscope has the ability to reach the problem areas and show a clear and magnified view
- Very tiny and precision instruments like diamond burrs, radio frequency cautery and lasers are used.
- All this makes it possible to avoid General anesthesia and procedure can be done in an awake patient, this reduces the anesthesia risk and also prevents damage to the spinal nerves, and problems like wrong level surgery are prevented
- All this makes it very safe and precise with very quick recovery, less hospital stay and discharge home in a day or two.
- Most patients are pain-free the same day and start walking.
- The risk of infection is also very less
- Long hospitalisation, long bed rest, Blood transfusion, long term intravenous medication, specialised care, and physiotherapy, all can be avoided. Does not require major dressing / suture removal
- All this makes it cost eﬀective.
Thus if spinal stenosis is a curse to ageing, advanced Endoscopic procedures are a boon.
Independence and pain free mobility is most essential in old age, so don’t neglect your back and leg pain, as neglect can cause irreversible damage.
Keep moving and stay young.