Could you have spinal stenosis and not know it? Incredibly, many people do develop this condition without realizing it. Spinal stenosis is an age-related progression where the spinal canal narrows and puts pressure on spinal nerve roots and the spinal cord. The condition usually begins gradually and gets worse over time, so lots of people fail to notice the symptoms or chalk them up to “getting older” until they become severe. However, once the disease progresses to that point, the pain can often be almost unbearable.
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 you have spinal stenosis in your 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
On the other hand, if you have spinal stenosis in your lumbar (lower back) region, nerve compression may cause you to have pain or cramping while walking or standing for awhile. Spinal stenosis in the lumbar region may also cause you to limp while walking.
Diagnosis and treatment
If you have neck or back pain and you suspect it may be caused by spinal stenosis, the first thing you should do is see a physician. Spinal stenosis can be difficult to diagnose because some of the symptoms can be caused by other conditions, such as herniated discs, arthritis of the spine or bulging discs. Your physician will be able to order tests to help rule out these other conditions and help you discover if spinal stenosis is the cause of your pain. Diagnostic tests ordered may include an MRI, an X-ray or a CT scan.
If it turns out that you do have spinal stenosis, your physician will work with you to create 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 and, in severe cases, surgery.
At Laser Spine Institute, we offer other treatment options that provide pain relief on an outpatient basis. Contact us to learn how our minimally invasive procedures can help you find meaningful relief from neck and back pain.