It’s not at all uncommon for people to learn about their spinal stenosis from x-ray or MRI results. Symptoms are typically not present until the condition reaches a more advanced stage. Sometimes, there are no symptoms at all.
So what is spinal stenosis in the neck?
Structures in the spine can narrow abnormally, resulting in the displacement or compression of nerves. This is what is meant by the term “stenosis”. In the case of neck stenosis, the narrowing takes place in a bony tunnel that shelters nerves that lead to the hand, arm, and shoulder. Narrowing in the upper spine or neck may lead to radiating pain, numbness, tingling in the leg or foot, or muscle weakness. In more serious cases, nerves extending to the bladder can also be affected. The pressure can be relieved through surgical procedures like endoscopic spine surgery, or spinal fusion. The endoscopic method involves the surgeon’s use of a very small endoscope to operate inside the bony tunnel. The fusion method forces extra space by separating the spinal discs. Surgery is not the only form of treatment available for this condition. Other types of treatment include:
- physical therapy
- pain pills
Pain pills tend to be the least favorite choice for patients, since they come with a host of nasty side effects (including risk for dependency and interference with other medications). For symptoms that persist, interfere with daily living, sleep, and/or recreational hobbies, surgery may become necessary. Unfortunately, many patients are led to believe that spinal fusions, metal plates and screws, and bone grafts are the only possible solution. Another unfortunate myth is that there is a high chance for paralysis to develop if surgery does not take place right away.
Maintaining normal range of motion for his patients is very important to Dr. Tony Mork, and has been since he opened his practice 13 years ago. According to Dr. Mork, our bodies are designed to move. In cases where surgery is absolutely necessary, he believes soft tissues should be handled delicately. This is only possible with non-invasive type surgeries, where the incision is kept to a minimum size (smaller than 1″).
The problem with a fusion is that it does not treat the condition directly. Basic anatomy surrounding the affected area must be restructured, manipulated, and disturbed; often creating additional mobility problems for the patient. The solution is to use an endoscopic spine surgery technique. Healthy tissues and structures can be left alone, while only the problem areas are operated on.
Successful bone removal and nerve decompression are what characterize the endoscopic spine surgery technique. In the practice Dr. Mork founded over a decade ago, this approach is used exclusively because it works without:
- massive and unnecessary incisions
- negatively impacting a patient’s range of motion
- forcing healthy discs apart with invasive fusions
Dr. Mork has found that in most cases, mobility is preserved or even increased by operating on the bone that’s compressing the nerves to the shoulder/arm region. If it becomes necessary to remove any bones of the facet, not enough is removed to affect stability.
Dr. Mork and his colleague Scott Haufe evaluated numerous results and wrote research papers documenting this practice. Their research findings from a two-year followup of neck stenosis decompressions showed very favorable results. In fact, 85% of all Dr. Mork’s surgeries resulted in good or excellent outcomes. This conclusive scientific evidence was enough to convince Dr. Mork to continue with the endoscopic technique. His work was presented in 2011 at a global summit held in Las Vegas, Nevada. The high success rate proves successful outcomes are possible (and more likely) without spinal fusion.
Successfully treating stenosis in the neck is possible, but it’s not simple. In fact, a number of things need to happen. First, the patient experiences symptomatic cervical narrowing (persistent arm or shoulder pain). There is a high likelihood that MRI films have already confirmed the condition. Next, the pain should be correlated with the decompressed nerve. This is carried out by administering nerve-blocking agents like Novocain. If the nerve is identified correctly, the pain temporarily subsides.
After this correlation experiment is complete, the decompression surgery can take place. Dr. Mork prefers to limit himself to an incision of 1/4″ (this is about the size of a dime). He also prefers to keep his patients conscious, using twilight sedation. This makes it possible to complete the surgery on an outpatient basis.
A completely non-invasive procedure is possible for people suffering with this condition. To learn more, call Dr. Mork’s office and ask to schedule a complimentary consultation.