Answers written by: Dr. Matthew Cunningham, Spine Surgeon
Q4. Curious to find out more about spinal stenosis. My aging father has suffered from back pain for some time and was just diagnosed with this.
Spinal stenosis is a condition where the nerves do not have enough “room” inside the spinal canal to work properly. It is a gradually progressive condition that tends to happen to patients in their 50s and up, and usually involves decreased walking tolerance, “heaviness” in the legs, and sometimes pain and “sciatica” that shoots down the legs. He should be checked out so that a treatment plan can be developed, which may include: physical therapy, non-steroidal antiinflammatories, epidural steroid injections, or is all of these are ineffective, surgery.
Q5. I had spinal fusion surgery at your hospital early December by Dr. Farmer, who was the best! I’m going for PT but wanted to know do’s and don’ts for now. I forgot to ask Dr. Farmer when I just saw him, and don’t want to hurt myself. I really want to know my limitations.
Mobilizing after surgery is very dependent on the details of what you’d had done, and the personal feelings of your surgeon. I will recommend that you speak to your surgeon about how they want you to proceed with mobilizing. For the first 6 weeks, I encourage my patients to “remain vertical” as much as they are able to tolerate: shoulders over the hips – standing, sitting, and walking. I don’t want to start up trunk strengthening exercises too early, and I don’t want to get the range of motion going too early, because I want the spine to be healing pretty well before we start to stress it with vigorous muscle activity.
Matthew E Cunningham MD PhD is an orthopedic surgeon at HSS, specializing in Pediatric and Adult, Spine and Scoliosis surgery. Dr. Cunningham’s interests include minimally invasive and open surgery for spine deformity and degenerative conditions. He currently is the Interim Chief of the Scoliosis Service, Director of the John Cobb Scoliosis Fellowship, Principal Investigator of the Molecular and Cellular Spine Research Laboratory at HSS, and acts as a reviewer for Clinical Orthopedics & Related Research, Hospital for Special Surgery Journal, Journal of Orthopedic Research, Arthritis Research & Therapy Journal, Scoliosis Journal, Biochemistry Journal, American Academy for Laboratory Animal Science Journal, and Journal of Biomechanics.