Mild spinal stenosis is the beginning stage of spinal stenosis – the first indication that your spinal column is narrowing in certain areas. Preliminary signs of spinal stenosis can show on X-rays before any symptoms of the disease are felt.
Spinal stenosis is a gradual disease that is largely caused by the normal aging process. Over time, age-related conditions like arthritis of the spine, disc degeneration, bulging discs, etc. begin to encroach on the spinal column, causing it to become narrow. At first, many people don’t feel the effects of this narrowing, but as it progresses, it eventually presses on nerve roots and the spinal cord. This is when the symptoms of mild spinal stenosis are felt, such as occasional back pain, neck pain and leg pain. These symptoms are uncomfortable, but typically do not get in the way of a person’s normal daily activities such as sitting, standing, walking, working, etc.
Mild spinal stenosis is often treated with a medically conservative approach. Doctors may recommend:
- Rest or reduced activity
- Over-the-counter medications
- Hot/cold therapy
- Exercises, such as sit-ups, to strengthen the abdominal muscles
- Low-impact exercise, such as walking or swimming
Being a progressive disease, spinal stenosis can be classified as mild, moderate or severe. It also should be noted that, as with all health conditions, everyone’s tolerance for pain is different. One patient may characterize the lower back pain of spinal stenosis as mild, while another patient may call it moderate or severe spinal stenosis, depending on an individual’s tolerance for pain. After a physical examination and diagnostic testing, your physician can make a definitive determination on the severity of your symptoms and prescribe the appropriate treatment.
If, after a month or two, these treatments are not effective – or if your pain worsens, or you develop new symptoms – then your condition has likely progressed to moderate spinal stenosis. At that time, other treatments, such as epidural steroid injections and prescription medications, may be recommended to address your pain.
For some patients, spinal stenosis progresses to the point where the simplest daily tasks are limited because of intense pain and weakness. If this sounds like your situation, then it’s time to contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more about our minimally invasive outpatient procedures and to receive a review of your MRI or CT scan.