Most of us remember last summer’s scare when 14 people died after contracting spinal meningitis after infected epidural steroid injections. For weeks these stories were in the news, and as a result, medical laboratories across the country were closed down due to contaminated steroid injections sickening hundreds of people. But the question seldom asked is why did these individuals get these injections in the first place? Why are ESIs – or Epidural Spine Injections – so common, even if the risk of infection or other complications can be so high?
ESIs are commonplace procedures for people with persistent back pain, such as lumbar spinal stenosis. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that 14,000 people might have received spinal injections that were potentially infected. Even prior to the 2012 outbreak, this type of surgical procedure was deemed risky.
What can be done to treat spinal stenosis without the use of drugs and surgery? According to Dr. Brad Butler of Oakland Spine and Physical Therapy in Oakland, NJ, there are effective treatments for spinal stenosis that are non-invasive. “Using laser therapy and other treatment protocols, we’re able to significantly reduce the amount of pain and discomfort patients suffer from with lumbar and cervical spine stenosis,” said Dr. Butler. “Laser therapy is drug and pain free. It helps by stimulating tissue healing, circulation and fights inflammation of the spine. We have had amazing success with our program and, in some cases, completely resolved back pain issues with our patients.”
What causes spinal stenosis? Stenosis is, by definition, an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal that can occur in any region of the spine. The most frequent types of stenosis are lumbar and cervical stenosis. Lumbar stenosis is a narrowing and compression of the spine at the lumbar vertebra, causing lower back pain and, in its severity, causing leg pain and problems walking. Cervical stenosis causes the same issues in the neck area, which can affect the neck, shoulders, arms and, for some, debilitating headaches. Why does narrowing of the spinal canal occur? As the body ages, many changes take place that can affect the spine. “The spinal cord is a collection of nerves leading from the brain to the lower back,” explains Dr. Butler. “When the spinal cord compresses, a squeezing of the nerves and cord in the spine changes how the spinal cord functions and causes stiffness, pain, and numbness.”
Dr. Butler’s therapy approach centers around combining traditional therapies, like physical therapy and chiropractic manipulation, with state of art technology, like spinal decompression and the LCT 1000 Deep Tissue (Class IV) laser therapy, the most targeted, powerful and therapeutic laser system available in medicine today. “The wavelengths, power density and optics of the LCT 1000 Deep Tissue (Class IV) laser system allow us to precisely target and deliver a therapeutic dose of laser that immediately stimulates tissue growth,” says Butler. “This type of therapy is critical for helping stenosis patients repair and regrow lost tissue. The energy used in laser therapy is actually helping the entire body by promoting better circulation. We have patients who immediately feel the relief of their pain.” Dr. Butler’s program also incorporates alternative therapies such as acupuncture and therapeutic massage.
What about painkillers? Do they work? For many years, patients were prescribed multiple varieties of pain medication to help alleviate pain and told to ‘rest.’ Dr. Butler explains that this outdated mode of thinking doesn’t really get to the root of the problem. “What we now know, through years of research and practice, is that pain medications only mask the problem. They’re simply not a cure,” he says. “While you may feel relief from pain, pressure and soreness, as soon as you stop taking these oral medications, the pain very commonly comes back. The only way to see long-term relief is through treating the cause of the problem. Our goal is to help patients heal and live healthier, more active lives. We don’t just treat patients in crisis mode; we aim to see our patients feeling their best and maximizing their care to help them stay active, healthy and happy.”
To learn more about Dr. Butler and make an appointment for a free evaluation, call (201) 465-4731 or visit their website at www.oaklandspinenj.com.