Vertos Medical Blog

Living with Lumbar Spinal Stenosis: How the mild® Procedure Has Helped Patients with LSS Find Relief

Published May 13, 2021

Living with lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) pain can cause a dramatic shift in your day-to-day schedule. For minimally invasive lumbar decompression (mild®) Patient Lynn Ballard, everyday activities, hobbies and outings, including baking, cooking, completing chores and shopping, were affected by her constant discomfort. “I was probably able to walk 10 to 15 minutes, was all. It took a lot of pleasure out of it, but I kept pushing,” Ballard said. While she loved spending time in the kitchen and her family loved her meals, Ballard adapted shortcuts in her cooking to spend less time on her feet. “I told my family that unless something changed, we wouldn’t be having a big Christmas meal the next year,” Ballard shared. “But, things changed and we had the big dinner.”

What is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis (LSS)?

After enduring and unsuccessfully seeking relief for her lower back pain for about five years, a nurse practitioner reviewed an MRI of Ballard’s spine and diagnosed her with lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS). Lumbar spinal stenosis, also referred to as LSS, is a condition in which the lower spinal canal narrows and compresses the spinal nerves in the lower back. Best visualized as a “kink in a drinking straw,” this compression can contribute to pain and mobility issues, both of which Ballard faced daily. A common condition generally found in people over the age of 50, Ballard is one of more than two million lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) patients nationwide who are diagnosed and treated annually.

What Causes Lumbar Spinal Stenosis (LSS)?

As Cleveland Clinic states, “Spinal stenosis usually develops slowly over time. It is most commonly caused by osteoarthritis or ‘wear-and-tear’ changes that naturally occur in your spine as you age.” In addition to osteoarthritis (overgrowth of bone), other common lumbar spinal stenosis causes include thickening of ligament tissue and bulging of discs. These gradually occurring changes may be seen on X-rays or other imaging tests even before patients have significant symptoms, Cleveland Clinic continues, however as stenosis worsens, it may affect the individual’s quality of life.

What are the Symptoms of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis (LSS)?

The pain that Ballard felt each time she attempted to sweep the porch, pull weeds, prepare a meal or do anything that required her to stand for more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time, can be considered a “red flag” for lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) as many patients experience pain or numbness in the lower back when standing upright. Other common lumbar spinal stenosis symptoms include pain when lying down and pain, numbness, heaviness or tingling in the upper legs or buttocks when walking. Patients often find a moment of ease and temporary relief when bending forward as this action releases pressure on the spinal cord and space in the spinal canal is “opened,” or the “kink in the drinking straw” is temporarily released. Ballard’s friend of over 40 years, Lynn Johnson, shared that this action of finding relief was very common for Ballard. Each time they’d go shopping together, Ballard would look for a place to sit because she couldn’t stand or walk for too long. “If we needed to go somewhere, lots of times I would just run in because she couldn’t do it—her back just hurt too much,” Johnson recalled.

What is the Best Treatment for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis (LSS)?

Depending on each patient’s unique circumstances, doctors typically recommend lumbar spinal stenosis treatments based on their safety profile and commonly prioritize low-risk or less aggressive procedures before higher ones. The mild® Procedure is an early treatment option to consider if more conservative therapies, such as physical therapy or pain medications, are not providing adequate relief. In Ballard’s journey to treat her lumbar spinal stenosis pain, she was referred to a pain clinic and given an epidural steroid injection (ESI). While the initial relief was great, it lasted about three months before the pain was back. “I went for a second epidural and I got it, and it didn’t last two weeks,” Ballard recalled. Instead of seeking a third injection, Ballard made the decision to move to the mild® Procedure. “It’s [mild®] helped a lot of people. It’s simple, it’s outpatient—that’s what I want,” Ballard recalled telling her doctor.

What is the Minimally Invasive Lumbar Decompression (mild®) Procedure?

mild® is an early treatment option that addresses a major root cause of lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS). Like bending forward to open up the spinal canal, or “kink in the drinking straw,” to achieve temporary relief, the mild® procedure restores space in the spinal canal by removing excess ligament tissue through an incision smaller than the size of a baby aspirin (5.1mm). Studies show that mild® offers a safety profile similar to an epidural steroid injection (ESI), but with lasting results. Performed in an outpatient setting generally using only local anesthetic and light sedation, mild® is a minimally invasive procedure that does not require general anesthesia, implants, stitches, steroids or opioids, and leaves no implants behind. Patients are typically able to resume normal activity within 24 hours with no restrictions after mild®. As Ballard returned home the same day that she had mild®, she kept thinking, “Where’s the pain?” The residual pain she expected to have after the procedure never occurred.

Living Without Lumbar Spinal Stenosis (LSS) Pain

“Since I’ve had the mild® Procedure I can stand as long as I want, whatever is required,” Ballard shared. “I feel better! I don’t have to go into a store and look for a shopping cart… (or) a chair.” Less than five days after having mild®, Ballard and Johnson were able to go out shopping together without any pain. “Since she’s had the mild® Procedure, she’s ready to roll; she never stops!” Johnson said. “There’s a big difference in the way she acts and I know the way she feels… I have my friend back.” Like Ballard, mild® has helped thousands of lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) patients, achieve lasting relief from back pain. A study performed at Cleveland Clinic found that at one year after having the mild® Procedure, patients were able to increase their average standing time from 8 minutes to 56 minutes with less pain. They also increased their average walking distance from 246 feet, the equivalent of a short walk to check the mail, to 3,956 feet, the equivalent of a leisurely walk through the shopping mall.

Now that “grandma’s back to cookin’,” as Ballard says, her friends and family are quick to notice the difference in her abilities and attitude, and she’s quick to tell them about the mild® Procedure. “I’ve been talking to several people and they are having their MRIs done. I highly recommend everybody to have the mild® Procedure,” she said. Contrary to what many may believe, aging does not have to mean letting go of favorite hobbies and living with back pain. Ballard and many other mild® Patients have been able to get back to meaningful activities that seemed out of reach prior to the procedure. So, don’t lose hope! The opportunity for the relief you’ve been searching for may finally be achieved with the mild® Procedure. Take the mild® Patient survey to learn more and find a mild® Doctor near you.

Disclaimer: This is not a replacement for a medical diagnosis, a recommendation for treatment or medical advice. Please consult a doctor to determine personal health issues.

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