For those with lumbar spinal stenosis, leaning forward on a shopping cart or sitting down may relieve your back pain temporarily, but a new option in spine surgery may provide long-term relief.

Each year, more than 1 million Americans are diagnosed with lumbar spinal stenosis—narrowing of the spinal canal, which compresses nerves of the lower back and causes pain and numbness radiating into the legs. While degeneration of the spine is more common as we age, no one should have to suffer with chronic back pain.

“Spine surgery is considered for patients with significant symptoms of pain and disability when conservative treatment, such as anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and epidurals have failed to provide relief,” says Matthew Pollard, MD, spine surgeon on staff at Augusta Health. “The X-STOP® procedure is a great alternative for patients who cannot tolerate the general anesthesia required for a laminectomy—considered the surgical standard of care for lumbar spinal stenosis.”

Trading Spaces

The X-STOP, minimally invasive procedure uses a small incision in the skin to insert an implant made from a titanium alloy. The implant is designed to open the space between spinous processes—the bumps down your back—to relieve pressure on the nerve, easing back pain. Available on an outpatient basis, the X-STOP procedure is reversible because no bone or soft tissue removal is required. The procedure takes about an hour to complete, is associated with a low rate of complications, and requires only local anesthesia and one night’s stay in the hospital. Patients can resume regular activities in six weeks, where recovery from a laminectomy can be eight weeks or more.

“Current studies show the X-STOP procedure has been better than conservative treatment in relieving patient symptoms,” says Dr. Pollard. “However, I am committed to finding the best solution from a broad spectrum of very effective treatment options to improve my patients’ lives.”

Watch Your Back

Staying in good physical condition is one way to avoid back pain. Here are some tips for a strong, healthy back:

  • Exercise regularly to increase back strength and endurance. Choose low-impact aerobic activities, such as walking and swimming, to avoid jarring or straining your back.
  • Improve muscle strength and flexibility to protect your back. A strong core comprised of back and abdominal muscles that work together holds your back in alignment. Flexibility in your upper legs and hips helps align your pelvic bones, improving how your back feels.
  • Quit smoking to maximize oxygen levels in your spinal tissue. Nicotine and smoke cause the spine to degenerate more quickly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight to minimize strain on your back muscles.