What is Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy or Ligamentum Flavum Thickening?

Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy which is also known by the name of Ligamentum Flavum Thickening is a pathological condition of the spine in which there is degeneration or swelling of the Ligamentum Flavum. This condition is quite common for people who have chronic back pain.

In some cases, Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy or Ligamentum Flavum Thickening may also result in spinal stenosis which may contribute further to the pain that an individual suffers due to Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy.

Anatomically speaking, the ligamentum flavum is a connective tissue which holds the vertebrae together. This tissue connects the vertebrae posterior to the central canal which is the rear portion of the central spinal canal. Thus, if there is Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy or Ligamentum Flavum Thickening it leaves very little room for available in the posterior or rear part of the spinal canal.

This may not be a problem for healthy individual but it tends to be a problem in individuals who already are dealing with spinal stenosis in which there is narrowing of the spinal canal. This narrowing or stenosis of the spinal canal may be due to congenital reasons, an injury to the spinal cord, or other degenerative processes.

There is no clear cut reason as to why the thickening occurs but usually it is seen in individuals who have abnormality in the spinal cord or have had a spinal cord injury. This starts a gradual degeneration of the spine which ultimately results in Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy or Ligamentum Flavum Thickening.

What is Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy or Ligamentum Flavum Thickening?

What Causes Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy or Ligamentum Flavum Thickening?

As stated above, there is no clear cause for Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy or Ligamentum Flavum Thickening. Studies have suggested that this condition is normally seen in people who have a spinal cord abnormality or have had an injury to the spinal cord as a result of a motor vehicle crash or an assault.

Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy or Ligamentum Flavum Thickening can also be caused due to normal wear and tear of the spinal cord with age. There are many cases where there is no cause for Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy identified and such cases are stated as idiopathic Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy.

What are the Symptoms of Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy or Ligamentum Flavum Thickening?

For individuals with spinal cord conditions, Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy or Ligamentum Flavum Thickening may not cause much further symptoms than they already are experiencing due to their back condition. In cases of spinal stenosis, however, there may be further aggravation of pain due to Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy. This is because the thickening or hypertrophy may cause the already existing spinal condition to get worsened. The symptoms experienced in such cases are usually felt below the affected level of the thickening or hypertrophy. If the individual has a herniated disc or has arthritis then the picture gets more complicated with further aggravation of pain and problems with ambulation and movements of the back which may eventually require surgery for relief of symptoms.

If there is Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy or Ligamentum Flavum Thickening as a result of normal aging causing degeneration of the spine then it may cause an injury to the spinal cord and further cause pain and difficulty with movements. Normally individuals who are above age 50 are most predisposed to getting Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy.

How is Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy or Ligamentum Flavum Thickening Diagnosed?

The best way to diagnose Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy or Ligamentum Flavum Thickening is by doing an MRI scan of the spine, which will reveal clear thickening of the ligamentum flavum on the images. In some cases, Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy is identified when the MRI is being done for other spinal issues like ruling in or out a disc herniation or disc bulge.

How is Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy or Ligamentum Flavum Thickening Treated?

To begin with, once Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy or Ligamentum Flavum Thickening is diagnosed, the patient may be treated with NSAIDs to calm down the pain and inflammation. The patient may further be sent to physical therapy for stretching and strengthening of the spine and see if it provides relief of symptoms by reducing pressure on the spine and realigning the structures.

If even this treatment for ligamentum flavum hypertrophy is found to be ineffective, then the patient may be referred for surgery. The surgical procedures done for treating Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy are usually minimally invasive procedures which require a very small incision through which instruments are inserted along with a camera and the abnormality is treated.

A more complex surgery that may be recommended for treatment of Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy or Ligamentum Flavum Thickening is laminectomy which is quite a complicated procedure and has an extended recovery phase.

In some cases, people look out for alternative treatment for Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy as they do not want to undergo surgery. Chiropractic and acupuncture has shown some efficacy in treating symptoms caused due to Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy or Thickening.

The chiropractor may do some exercises to not only stabilize the spine but also strengthen it so that the patient may get relief from the symptoms. This is found to be as effective as other conventional forms of nonoperative treatments for Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy or Ligamentum Flavum Thickening.

Acupuncture is yet another alternative treatment for treating Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy where the acupuncturist utilizes needles as a means of stimulating certain areas under the skin. There has been some efficacy seen with this form of treatment for Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy.

People with Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy or Ligamentum Flavum Thickening can go through this route of treatment if they want to avoid the risks of surgery which may include risks of injuring the surrounding structures along with injury to nerve, artery or vessels, or the inherent risks of anesthesia which may be potentially quite serious. For such people the above mentioned alternative ways are quite a viable option for treating Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy.

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Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: July 19, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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