Mild spinal stenosis
Mild spinal stenosis can be thought of as the first stage of this condition — or the earliest indications of narrowing in the spinal column. Preliminary signs of spinal stenosis can show on X-rays before any symptoms of the disease are felt. This would usually occur if you were being diagnosed for other symptoms in a part of the body close to the spine. If you have been diagnosed with spinal stenosis but you are not experiencing symptoms, or your symptoms are mild, it is important to take a proactive approach to treatment. Spinal stenosis can progress to a point where even the simplest activities — mowing the lawn, doing the dishes, playing with children or grandchildren — become painful and difficult.
The causes and symptoms of mild spinal stenosis
Spinal stenosis is a gradual disease caused by natural aging in most situations. Over time, degenerative conditions like arthritis of the spine or bulging and herniated discs can narrow the space in the spinal column. At first, many people don’t feel the effects of this narrowing, but as it progresses, it can interfere with the spinal cord and exiting nerve roots. This is when the first symptoms of mild spinal stenosis are felt, such as occasional local pain and radiating pain out to the arms or legs. These symptoms are uncomfortable but typically do not get in the way of your normal daily activities at first.
Take control of your treatment
When milder cases of spinal stenosis are found early, treatment will almost always begin with conservative methods. Doctors may recommend:
- Rest or reduced activity
- Over-the-counter medication
- Hot/cold therapy
- Exercises to strengthen core muscles, especially the back
- Low-impact aerobics, such as walking or swimming
As a progressive disease, spinal stenosis can be classified as mild, moderate or severe. Like many conditions, severity can be dependent on your individual tolerance for pain. One patient may characterize the lower back pain of spinal stenosis as mild, while another may call it moderate or even severe spinal stenosis.
Sometimes if a full course of these treatments is not effective — or if your pain worsens — then your condition could then be classified as moderate spinal stenosis. At this point, more aggressive nonsurgical treatments, like epidural steroid injections and prescription medications, may be recommended. Surgery is usually only considered when weeks or months of more conservative treatments have not brought a return to full activity or relief from pain.
For some patients, spinal stenosis progresses to the point where the simplest daily tasks are limited because of intense pain and muscle weakness. If this sounds like your situation, then it’s time to contact Laser Spine Institute to find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures and to receive a no-cost review* of your MRI report.