In October 2012, Donna, 58, began experiencing pain in her lower back that radiated down her leg and into her foot. "The pain was, at times, stabbing; other times, throbbing," she says. A nerve density test and MRI revealed that she had developed spinal stenosis — a condition that causes chronic pain, numbness, muscle weakness and cramping, and can lead to problems with bladder and bowel function.
Donna's doctors informed her that she needed to stay on pain medications and muscle relaxers or undergo an invasive back surgery to treat her condition. However, she was not able to dedicate the time it would take to recover from surgery. "I have other responsibilities besides myself. I have a dad who is 87 years old; I have a husband who has medical issues, and I need to be able to be there for them," she says.
Donna decided to delay surgery and cope with her chronic pain, until she learned about a new less-invasive technique with a much shorter recovery period. She met with chronic pain specialist Dr. Rick Paicius for an evaluation and was determined to be an ideal candidate for the MILD procedure.
“Lumbar spinal stenosis affects over a million people in this country a year,” Dr. Paicius explains. “What happens is, as we age, our spine gets degenerative, and the bones and the soft tissue around the spine and the spinal cord tend to get tighter and tighter.”
MILD (minimally invasive lumbar decompression) is an outpatient procedure that lasts less than one hour and requires no anesthesia, implants or stitches. The process is performed through a tiny incision in the lower back and involves removing small fragments of bone and excess ligament tissue to restore space in the spinal canal and decrease the compression of nerves. Clinical studies show that 79 percent of patients who underwent the MILD procedure experienced a 53 percent reduction in pain and a 34 percent increase in mobility within a year. However, as with any elective procedure, MILD comes with potential risks and side effects, including stroke, infection and paralysis.
• Learn more about the MILD procedure.