One problem we frequently encounter at our spine specialty practice in New Jersey is a condition called lumbar spinal stenosis. It is a degenerative condition that usually affects people who are 60 or older, though it can also occur in younger people.
Lumbar spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal within the 5 vertebrae found in the lower back, between the ribs and the pelvis. Lumbar spinal stenosis leads to symptoms that can include pain or weakness in the legs, buttocks or calves, numbness, pain in one or both thighs, and cramping in the calves.
We diagnose this condition using MRIs and CT scans, as well as X-rays, and we treat it both conservatively, using protocols like medications and physical therapy, and surgically using minimally invasive procedures known as laminectomy, laminotomy, laminoplasty, or decompression surgery.
The goal of each of these surgeries is to create space within the spinal canal and ease pressure on the spinal nerves.
As various companies introduce new tools and techniques for spine surgeons to use in treating lumbar spinal stenosis patients, they need a way to track their success.
Now a company called Vertos Medical is asking physicians using their new minimally invasive Mild procedure to have their patients wear a Fitbit device in order to provide the company with high quality, objective feedback on the progress that patients who’ve had the surgery make.
The Fitbit is a popular fitness tracking tool that has taken the country by storm. People of all ages and fitness levels have taken to wearing the device in order to track their activities, number of steps walked, calories burned and more.
Now the people behind this new technique are using it to track whether the procedure is providing patients with significant improvements in their level of mobility.
The Mild procedure involves having the lumbar spine surgeon use a contrast in order to make the spinal canal narrowing extremely apparent, then using a tiny incision to extract small pieces of ligament and bone that are contributing to the arrow.
Physicians are able to watch the spinal canal open and the pressure on nerves alleviated before their eyes, and patients whose lifestyle had been impacted by pain find themselves experiencing nearly instantaneous relief, with nothing but a bandaid covering the small incision used in the procedure.
The study that Vertos Medical is using to study the outcomes of the procedure is making smart use of the fitness tracker, and in order to ensure that the patients are neither encouraged or discouraged by the information that the tracker is gathering, the Fitbit Face is covered so they are unable to track their own progress.
Each patient’s tracking data is collected at intervals of six months after surgery, twelve months after surgery, and two years after surgery. The results so far have been extremely encouraging, with patients increasing their standing time from eight minutes to 56 minutes and their walking distance from 250 feet to 4,000 feet.
On the Road to Recovery
If you are experiencing back pain that you suspect may be lumbar spinal stenosis, the first step is getting properly diagnosed by a lumbar spine specialist.
Contact our office today to set up an appointment and put yourself on the road to recovery.