Spinal stenosis is a condition where the spaces within the spine are narrowed, putting pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine; spinal stenosis affects the lower back and neck in most cases. It is mostly caused because of wear-and-tear in the spine caused because of osteoarthritis. Some major causes of spinal stenosis include:
- Overgrowth of bone
- Herniated disk
- Thickened ligaments
- Spinal injuries
While some people with spinal stenosis might not experience any major symptoms, on the other hand, other people might experience symptoms such as – pain, numbness, weakness and tingling. These symptoms worsen as the condition intensifies.
Types of Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis can be classified as per the place where it occurs. It is also possible for a person to be affected by both types of spinal stenosis.
Cervical Stenosis: In this type of spinal stenosis, the narrowing happens in the spine part in the neck.
Lumbar Stenosis: In this type of spinal stenosis, narrowing occurs in the part of the spine located in the lower back.
Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis
Like mentioned, some people might not experience any symptoms, whereas others might witness intense symptoms depending on the location of the stenosis – neck or lower back. Moreover, in all cases, symptoms appear gradually and intensify over time.
Symptoms of spinal stenosis in the neck – cervical spine
- Numbness or tingling in body parts – hands, arms, legs and foot
- Weakness in the hand, arm, leg or foot
- Balancing issues
- Problem with mobility – walking, sitting, etc.
- Intense pain in the neck
- Bladder dysfunction (in rare cases)
Symptoms of spinal stenosis in the lower back – lumbar spine
- Numbness or tingling in one leg or foot
- Weakness in one leg or foot
- Intense back pain
- Intense pain or cramps in legs (because of standing for too long)
It is important to treat spinal stenosis to avoid long-term or permanent problems. And amongst all other modes of treatment, laser disc decompression, is one of the recent developments and also the most effective method.
Laser Disc Decompression
Laser disc decompression is a minimally invasive method to treat spinal stenosis, specifically lumbar disk herniation. The method involves lower morbidity and shorter recovery time as compared to other conventional approaches.
In this method, a laser fibre is delivered through a hollow needle which is placed in the inner core of the vertebral disc, known as nucleus pulposus. During the procedure, the patient is under the influence of local anaesthesia. Once the laser fibre is directed at the right position, it helps to relieve the intradiskal pressure by evaporating the accumulated water in the nucleus pulposus. This also leads to a rise in temperature which causes a structural change in the vertebral disc, thus limiting its capacity to accumulate water and later cause problems.
In some cases, it is used to remove parts of disc tissue positioned around the spinal cord and the back nerves – to relieve the nerve compression.
Benefits of Laser Disc Decompression for Spinal Stenosis
The most important benefit of this approach is that it is less invasive as compared to other traditional back surgery approaches. Also, the patient can recover faster and can resume normal activities much sooner as compared to other traditional approaches to treat spinal stenosis.
Moreover, it can be conducted in an outpatient space after being administered with local anaesthesia.
Drawbacks of Laser Disc Decompression for Spinal Stenosis
This method of treatment has a few drawbacks since it is not a perfect fit for all situations. In conditions such as degenerative spinal diseases, a laser disc decompression would not be perfect.
Also, in case spinal stenosis is extremely complicated and intense, an alternative approach of surgery will be needed. In some cases, even after a laser disc decompression surgery, the patient might have to undergo another surgical treatment.
Efficacy of Laser Disc Decompression for Spinal Stenosis
The efficacy of the method is hugely dependent per case. In some cases, laser disc decompression has been proven to be very effective with the patient having no requirement of a follow-up surgery. However, in certain complex cases of spinal stenosis, the efficacy of the method is lower as compared to conventional approaches such as open surgery, MISS, etc.
One of the side effects of the surgery that question its efficacy is the potential of damage to the surrounding tissues. Because the method uses laser technology to direct heat, it can also damage the nearby tissues, nerves and cartilage, thus, creating other related problems.
In some cases, the patient can also suffer an infection if the probe placed is not done through effective sanitization procedures. However, anti-biotics can treat infection easily.
Overall, as laser disc decompression is more advanced and deeply studied method; however, it has restricted usability and also further research is being conducted on this method to make it more useful and absolutely safe as compared to other invasive traditional approaches.