Treatment of Pinched Nerves and Painful Movement of the Spine

In order to fix what is commonly called pinched nerves, surgeons must remove anatomy to clear space around the surrounding nerves to remove the “pinch,” either in a laminectomy (the complete removal of the posterior bony canal) or a laminotomy ( the partial removal of the bony canal). On the other hand, to address “painful moving parts,” surgeons perform a procedure called “fusion.” Fusion involves new bone growth in areas that have no bone, in order to create permanent immobilization. Thus, no pain can be created because there is no motion. New bone takes months to grow, so screws and rods are used to aid in the fusion; similarly to how a cast helps a broken bone heal.

Procedures that alter the spine certainly have drawbacks, ranging from premature wear and tear at other non-operated areas of the spine to permanent loss of range of motion. In most cases, doctors only discuss spine surgery with patients after conservative treatment such as physical therapy, injections, medications, and activity modification have failed.

Dr. Paul Saiz, MD
NASS Coding Committee member
Las Cruces Orthopaedic Associates
Las Cruces, NM