Spinal Stenosis and Fusion Surgery

If you’re suffering from chronic lower back pain and past your college years you may want your doctor to check for spinal stenosis. But if your doctor suggests spinal fusion surgery you may want to think twice.

So first of all, what is spinal stenosis? Basically it’s a narrowing of the spinal canal which can put pressure on the spinal cord and other spinal nerves. This happens most commonly in the cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) areas of the spine. Muscle weakness, numbness and lower back pain from lumbar spinal stenosis typically result.

Not everyone with spinal stenosis experiences back pain. That’s a very good thing since 1 in 5 adults have it by their 40th birthday. And nearly half of those who reach age 60 will have a narrowed spinal column. Yet that doesn’t stop doctors from making surgery an alarmingly common outcome of a spinal stenosis diagnosis.

For decades, the fastest growth in lumbar surgery has been among older patients with spinal stenosis. Now a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has acknowledged that the number patients with spinal stenosis receiving the most complex spinal fusion surgeries has skyrocketed in recent years.

When it comes to spinal stenosis surgery, the study found there were three basic categories of back surgery used (in order from least to most invasive):

* Decompression surgery – bone is cut away from where it is pressing on nerves in the spinal canal
* Simple fusion surgery – two vertebrae are permanently fused together using a bone graft and possibly plates and screws
* Complex fusion surgery – three or more vertebrae are fused together and/or the vertebrae are fused on both the front and back of the spine

Guess which type of surgery was used 15 TIMES more frequently in 2007 than it was in 2002? The same one with the highest average cost at over $80,000 per procedure – complex fusion surgery.

One might hope that the more complex surgery is used because it has better results. No dice. 13% of patients are back in the hospital within 30 days. One in five need lower back surgery again within 10 years. Worse yet, risk of major complications like stroke and risk of death within 30 days of surgery are both double that of decompression surgery.

And in spite of all the talk about improved surgical techniques and new surgical implant devices approved since the mid-90s, the number of successful outcomes has declined. A study at the University of Washington found fusion surgery patients between 1997-2000 were 40% more likely to undergo a reoperation within the first year than they were in the 1990-1993 period. Not exactly progress.

Here’s the bottom line. Spinal surgery – any spinal surgery – is extremely risky business and should be considered only as an absolute last resort. Fortunately it’s rarely your only option for ending pain caused by spinal stenosis.

Most cases of spinal stenosis are simply a result of growing older, with a number of conditions contributing to its development including a herniated disc, osteoporosis, calcification over growth, and scar tissue build up. That means natural treatments for these are often successful at relieving lower back pain and other spinal stenosis symptoms.

One of the first places to start with spinal stenosis is nutrition. Most people actually get enough calcium, but to be used properly, you also need to ensure you’re getting enough Vitamin D and magnesium which helps your body keep a proper balance of absorbed minerals. This will help with calcification overgrowth.

Scar tissue buildup is typically the result of chronic inflammation and excess fibrin. Your body eliminates both with proteolytic systemic enzymes. But since your body dramatically slows down the production of those by your mid-20s you should consider taking a supplement with them.

Herniated discs are usually caused by unequal stress. Correcting muscle imbalances will help your body return to a neutral state to relieve pressure on the disc. And how about painless decompression without surgery? You’ll love how you feel after using either an inversion table or the Nubax which offer the real benefits of decompression without going under the knife.

Finally, you should recognize that just because you may have spinal stenosis doesn’t mean the pain is actually originating from your spine. 75% of all pain is actually referred from miniature trigger points deep in your muscle tissue, sometimes far from the site of pain. If the above natural approaches don’t end your pain try using a trigger point self treatment system. Chances are, you’ll find pain relief without needing any type of surgery.