It has been estimated that as many as 1 in every 10 Americans suffers from spinal stenosis, the narrowing of the spinal canal that can result in pressure on nearby nerves.
The condition tends to develop as we age when the discs in the lower back (lumbar region) that serve as shock absorbers between our vertebrae begin to deteriorate. As they break down, the spinal bones begin to compress and irritate nearby nerves. The result is numbness and pain in the legs that can make walking and standing difficult. In severe cases, the pain can be excruciating and debilitating to the point that patients are unable to work and tend to their daily responsibilities.
There are several treatments that have proven to be successful in reliving the pain associated with spinal stenosis, including epidural injections of anti-inflammatory corticosteroid medications; radiofrequency neurotomy (ablation) that uses heat to deaden nerve endings that send pain signals; and the MILD procedure which removes pieces of bone and ligament that are narrowing the spinal canal.
I am pleased to report that we can now add another treatment to that list: indirect decompression. It’s a fancy name for what essentially comes down to implanting a small medical device between the vertebrae to hold them open and thus relieve the pressure on the surrounding nerves. This means that those who suffer from spinal stenosis can get the same kind of pain relief they get while seated or with their feet raised.
This minimally invasive procedure can be performed in our office suites under local anesthesia. Recovery is quick since there is no large incision or need to stabilize the spine. Best of all, many patients enjoy significant pain relief after just a few days.
I have performed this procedure many, many times and now instruct other interventional pain specialists on the practice. This safe and effective treatment option has offered a new lease on life to patients who have not had success with other treatments or for whom major back surgery is not appropriate.