Ask the Doctor: A MILD Approach to Relieving Back Pain

William DurrettLumbar spinal stenosis, or a narrowing of the spinal canal, is a common cause of lower back pain that can make standing or walking difficult. A new procedure called MILD®, or Minimally Invasive Lumbar Decompression, gives some patients another option to avoid major surgery. William E. Durrett, Jr., MD, Interventional Pain Specialist at The Pain Center at Aiken Neurosciences, discusses the procedure.

Q: What causes spinal stenosis?

Back Pain

As we age, the natural wear and tear on our spine can lead to a number of contributing factors that cause the narrowing of the spinal canal — thickening of ligament tissue, formation of excess bone (osteoarthritis) or bulging of the discs. As this space around the spinal cord narrows, increasing pressure is placed on the spinal cord and spinal nerve roots. This can cause pain, numbness or weakness in the lower back, buttocks, legs and feet.

Q: How was spinal stenosis treated before MILD®?

In the past, after failing conservative therapy, patients were typically referred for an open surgical procedure called a lumbar laminectomy. This involves a larger incision, more trauma to surrounding tissues and a longer recovery time.

Q: Can you describe the MILD® procedure?

With the patient under minimal sedation, a tube the diameter of a pencil is placed in the back, down to the outside of the spine. This allows the doctor to stay outside the spinal canal while removing tiny pieces of tissue and bone that are pressing on the nerves. For many people, this removes the source of the pain. The incision requires only an adhesive bandage for closure.

Q: What are the benefits of MILD®?

This is a previously unavailable procedure to treat the cause of spinal stenosis in the most minimally invasive way possible. There are no implants, sutures or staples involved. Patients may gain immediate relief within hours of receiving the MILD procedure, and most return home the same day.