Patients find non-surgical, surgical treatments at Cayuga Neurosurgery to relieve spinal pain (Sponsored Content)

Conditions related to aging can result in a gradual narrowing of the spinal canal and cause patients discomfort in their neck and back. (Photo provided by Cayuga Health).

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Back Pain

Back pain is among the most frequent reasons patients seek care at Neurosurgery Services of CMA. Although many patients attribute their back pain to a pinched nerve, the condition is often due to spinal stenosis, a common ailment for people age 50 or older. Stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces in your spine that puts pressure on the spinal column’s nerves.

In most people, the bony portion of the spine has sufficient space for the spinal cord and nerve roots to function normally and comfortably. However, conditions related to aging can result in a gradual narrowing of the spinal canal and cause patients discomfort in their neck and back. As the space in the spine slowly narrows, the pressure on the spinal nerves increases and can produce pain, numbness or weakness in the arms and legs. Over time, patients may find walking or standing for long periods makes their symptoms more severe. In some patients, leg pain may become so severe that walking short distances is difficult.

The disease usually affects the three major areas of the spine:

  • Cervical stenosis, in the neck, can affect the arms, legs and sometimes balance.
  • Thoracic stenosis, in the mid back, can cause difficulty rotating the torso, and pain in the back that radiates to the lower back and legs. Thoracic stenosis is less common than either cervical or lumbar stenosis.
  • Lumbar stenosis, in the low back, usually affects the buttocks and legs and can make standing or walking painful. Lumbar stenosis can put pressure on the sciatic nerve and is a cause of sciatica.

Who is at risk for spinal stenosis?

Changes in the spine that happen as patients age are the most common causes of spinal stenosis. Younger patients can also develop spinal stenosis resulting from spinal injuries or inherited conditions of the spine.

Conditions that put people at higher risk for developing spinal stenosis include spinal bone spurs, thickening ligaments in the back, herniated spinal disks, injuries to the spine and osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis because it's often caused by the wear and tear on a joint over a lifetime. Less frequently, spinal stenosis can be caused by rheumatoid arthritis and spinal tumors. Some unusual conditions, such as congenital stenosis, a narrow spinal canal that is present from birth, or scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, can also put people at risk for developing spinal stenosis.

How is spinal stenosis diagnosed?

Patients seeking care at Neurosurgery Services of CMA for spine disorders receive a comprehensive evaluation with Dr. James Metcalf, who leads the care team, or from one of the practice’s physician assistants, Erica Lawlor, Marlee Drumheller or Desiree Long from the Cayuga Spine Center. The evaluation may include a physical exam, range of motion tests, laboratory tests, diagnostic imaging, and a review of a patient’s medical history. The symptoms of spinal stenosis can be like other spinal disorders, and a thorough exam is needed to make an accurate diagnosis.

James Metcalf, MD. (Photo provided by Cayuga Health).

What are some ways spinal stenosis is treated?

Non-surgical treatments are the initial therapies Neurosurgery Services of CMA most often recommends for patients with spinal stenosis and other spine disorders. The treatments may include over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, massage, exercise, physical therapy, pain management, and activity modification. Those treatments help most spinal stenosis patients, says Dr. Metcalf, who has been at Neurosurgery Services of CMA and Cayuga Health for 11 years and has taught neurosurgery for more than 25 years.

There is no cure for spinal stenosis, but patients can manage the disease with non-surgical therapies. Regular exercise that strengthens arms and upper leg muscles to improve balance, walking and bending ability can ease the pain caused by spinal stenosis.

Patients with severe or worsening symptoms from spinal stenosis may need surgery. When surgery is needed, the care team at Neurosurgery Services of CMA guides patients through the surgical process from preoperative evaluation, hospital care and postoperative care toward a goal of returning to normal activity.

Cayuga Health and Neurosurgery Services of CMA use advanced computer and imaging technology to diagnose spinal conditions and in the operating room during surgery. The surgeon uses specially designed equipment to move tissue and muscles to access the affected area, relieve the pressure on the spinal nerves or make repairs to improve the patient's condition.

For more information on neurosurgical care at Cayuga Health and Cayuga Medical Associates Neurosurgery, or the Cayuga Spine Center call (607) 269-0033. Neurosurgery Services of CMA is located at 905 Hanshaw Road Suite A, in Cayuga Heights.