How does arthritis affect the spine?
The spine consists of several small but critical bones. Between the vertebrae are discs that help with stability, flexibility, and shock absorption. As arthritis slowly damages the bones, changes can happen to the surrounding parts of the spine. For instance, the discs can herniate and press on surrounding nerves. Furthermore, arthritis can cause bone spurs that compress the space for the spinal cord.
Do you need a laminectomy?
Compression of the spinal cord and nerves can cause pain, numbness, and discomfort, particularly in the lower back. Depending on the severity of the problem, decompression surgery may be best. Also called a laminectomy, the surgery aims to remove a part of the vertebrae called the lamina. Surgery frees up some breathing room and relieves the pain. Either through an open procedure or minimally invasive means, the surgeon removes the lamina. In some cases, the surgeon removes part of the disc, and spinal fusion may be necessary. Laminectomy is not for everyone. Here are some reasons a doctor may choose to perform surgery.
The pain has moved to your leg
Arthritis can cause the bone spurs to press on nerves. The sciatic nerve is one such nerve that runs down each leg. Patients with sciatica, or sciatic nerve pain, will have chronic leg and foot pain. This pain can make movement difficult. Decompression surgery helps remove the added pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Non-surgical treatments have failed
There are a few non-surgical options for arthritis treatment. Pain management, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes can help. There are other non-surgical options like spinal epidural injections. If these treatment options fail, and the patient continues to have chronic pain, a laminectomy may help.
The weakness is too severe
Chronic pain can evolve into periods of numbness. These numb feelings can turn into feelings of weakness. In severe cases, weakness can cause additional conditions like a foot drop. Patients unable to move one leg freely may need immediate surgical help.
It’s affecting your bladder
Nerves that branch out from the spinal cord give the sensation of the limb. The same goes for many organs. Some nerve damage can create weakness in the bladder. For patients, this could mean a loss of bladder control. To resume proper function, the patient may benefit from surgery.
Decompression surgery may be the answer
Decompression surgery does not cure arthritis. However, the surgery can give the spinal cord much-needed space. This clears up the pain plaguing the patient. Laminectomy has a high success and satisfaction rate. At the same time, the surgery is not without risk. Speak with a doctor who will decide if decompression surgery makes sense.