Spinal stenosis is an age-related condition in which the spinal canal narrows and puts pressure on spinal nerve roots and the spinal cord. The condition usually begins gradually and progresses over time. Many people fail to notice the symptoms or attribute them to “getting older” until they become more severe. However, left untreated, the pain can often be almost unbearable. Eventually, pain is replaced by numbness, and numbness with weakness and loss of function.
What are the symptoms of spinal stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is a compressive disorder, which means that it causes chronic pain and other symptoms by compressing nerve roots. The exact symptoms of spinal stenosis vary based on which part(s) of the spine are affected. For example, if spinal stenosis is in the cervical (neck) area, you might experience:
- Pain weakness, numbness, or tingling in the shoulders, arms, and hands
- Pain in the neck or shoulders
- Trouble holding onto things
If spinal stenosis is in the lumbar (lower back) region, nerve compression may cause pain or cramping while walking or with prolonged standing. Spinal stenosis in a different lumbar region may also cause limping while walking due to pain or muscle weakness. It must be noted that not all areas may be compress uniformly. One nerve may be compressed to a greater degree than another resulting in a variability of symptoms in different areas or different sides of the body.
Diagnosis and treatment
Stenosis can occur in any region of the back, including:
If you suspect neck or back pain is caused by spinal stenosis, see your physician for testing and proper diagnosis. Spinal stenosis may be mimicked by other conditions, such as herniated discs, arthritis of the spine, or bulging discs. Your doctor will be able to order tests to help rule out other conditions and help you discover whether spinal stenosis is the cause of your pain. Diagnostic tests ordered may include an MRI, an X-ray or CT scan.
If you do have spinal stenosis, you and your physician will develop a treatment and pain management plan. Treatment options include changing your posture while walking or standing, exercises to help create more space in the spinal region, rest, medications, or in severe cases, surgery.
Most patients who suffer from spinal stenosis symptoms can find relief from non-invasive, conservative treatments such as physical therapy, prescription or over-the-counter pain medication, cortisone injections, gentle stretching, low-impact exercise, and heat therapy.
However, not all patients will find relief through these therapies. If your pain worsens or becomes chronic, spinal surgery may be prescribed. If this is the case, contact Laser Spine Institute (LSI) to learn about our minimally invasive, endoscopic surgical procedures. They are performed on an outpatient basis. Contact LSI today for a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan.