Understanding Arachnoiditis

Arachnoiditis is not a well-known condition. In fact, only about 11,000 Americans have arachnoiditis. However, it can cause severe pain and other symptoms. Unfortunately, the disease — in which certain tissue that surrounds the spinal cord and brain gets inflamed — can go undiagnosed, as relatively few physicians have diagnosed or treated it. 

Fortunately, here at Interventional Pain Center in Worthington and Newark, Ohio, Sachida Manocha, MD, is an expert in diagnosing and treating arachnoiditis. In this blog, Dr. Manocha explains what arachnoiditis is, what can cause it, and some of the treatment options.

What is arachnoiditis?

You might not think that your spine and spiderwebs have much in common, but one of the membranes that surrounds your spinal cord and brain consists of delicate, fibrous tissue that resembles a spider web.

This tissue is known as the arachnoid mater, and it protects the subarachnoid space that holds your cerebrospinal fluid. As with nearly every part of your body, the arachnoid mater is vulnerable to inflammatory conditions. And if this tissue gets inflamed, it’s called arachnoiditis.

This swelling can cause adhesions — or scar tissue — to form or make your nerves stick together, which can lead to pain and other long-term complications. 

Symptoms of arachnoiditis

While symptoms can vary wildly between patients, most develop burning pain in their lower back, hips, and legs. The disease can also cause shooting pain or various sensations, such as the feeling of insects or water moving down your legs. 

Numbness, tingling, and weakness in your lower body are also potential signs of arachnoiditis. Furthermore, you may have uncontrollable muscle spasms, cramps, or twitches. And in some cases, arachnoiditis can interfere with your sexual function or bladder and bowel control. 

Causes of arachnoiditis

In many cases, arachnoiditis is caused by a direct injury to the spine. This can include complications from spinal surgery or other spinal procedures, such as myelograms. 

You could also develop the condition due to exposure to certain chemicals or due to an infection, such as from meningitis or tuberculosis. Chronic nerve compression from advanced spinal stenosis or degenerative disc disease can also trigger arachnoiditis. 

Treating arachnoiditis

First, Dr. Manocha uses MRIs and CT scans to examine your spinal cord for signs of arachnoiditis. If you have spinal inflammation, scar tissue, or signs of nerve damage, he may order electromyography to evaluate the severity of the nerve damage. 

While there is no cure for arachnoiditis, Dr. Manocha can provide a personalized treatment plan to help you manage your symptoms. He often combines medication and physical therapy, and he might recommend psychotherapy to help you cope with the mental and emotional effects of living with chronic pain.

Spinal treatments or surgery aren’t always appropriate for arachnoiditis. Little research and few clinical trials have been completed to test the efficacy of spinal injections, electrical stimulation, and other spinal treatments. 

If you live with chronic pain and other symptoms of arachnoiditis, Dr. Manocha can help. He has the experience and knowledge necessary to diagnose the root cause of your pain, which is critical to delivering the most effective treatment. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Interventional Pain Center today.

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