How to help your physician in diagnosing spinal stenosis

Patients often associate accurately diagnosing a spine condition like spinal stenosis with medical imaging, such as an MRI, CT scan or X-ray. However, it’s easy to overlook how much of reaching a diagnosis involves simple interaction between you and your doctor. For example, if you are experiencing unexplained neck or back pain, a physician will almost certainly want to closely examine the particular area of the spine where the pain occurs.

This examination will typically include palpation and, possibly, a number of prescribed movements to test range of motion, such as walking on your toes and heels, and bending forward, backward and sideways. In addition, a physician will ask several important questions, and one of the best ways to help with diagnosis is to be ready to give detailed answers to questions about symptoms, lifestyle and medical history.

Questions a physician might ask

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the channels within the spine, including the central canal that protects the spinal cord and the openings, called foramina, between vertebrae that allow nerve roots to exit the spinal column. Spinal stenosis symptoms typically are related to compression of spinal nerves. A spinal stenosis diagnosis can possibly be made without the presence of symptoms — for example, if a physician happens to notice a narrowed spinal canal in an X-ray related to another condition.

In most cases, a physician’s first questions during the diagnostic process will be related to the intensity, duration and location of any pain. Other questions may cover family history, personal injury history and lifestyle.

Keep a symptom journal

One way you can be particularly helpful before seeing a physician for a possible spinal stenosis
diagnosis is to keep a running journal of symptoms: such as type, location, time of day, intensity, trigger activity, etc. This way, there is no need to rely as much on memory, and a physician can look for patterns within the occurrences.

Spinal stenosis treatments

Upon diagnosing spinal stenosis as the cause of symptoms, most doctors will recommend a course of conservative treatments like rest, hot and cold compression, medication, exercise, physical therapy and epidural steroid injections. While many patients find enough relief with these and other treatments for a good quality of life, surgery can become an option if symptoms don’t improve after a period of time agreed upon by you and your physician.

Doctors and patients alike often have concerns about the downsides associated with traditional open spine surgery, but there are other options. As a safer and effective alternative,^ Laser Spine Institute provides minimally invasive spine surgery that can treat conditions like spinal stenosis on an outpatient basis.

To learn more, contact our team today. We can review your MRI or CT scan at no cost* to determine if you may be a candidate for our procedures.

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