What are the symptoms of spinal stenosis?
The symptoms of spinal stenosis will depend on the location of the condition within the spine and severity of the condition. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing within the openings of the spine. It most frequently occurs in the lumbar (lower back) and cervical (neck) regions. If the narrowing occurs in the lumbar (lower) spine, symptoms are usually experienced in the buttocks, lower back, legs and feet. Symptoms of spinal stenosis in the cervical spine (neck) are usually felt in the shoulders, arms and hands. However, since the spinal cord and the other components of the central nervous system send and receive signals to and from all parts of the body, it is possible for spinal stenosis in the neck (cervical spinal stenosis) to produce symptoms that are felt in the legs and feet. Likewise, if the condition is present in the lumbar region, symptoms could result in the arms and hands.
In general, symptoms of both cervical and lumbar spinal stenosis include:
- Cramping in the legs
- Pain in the affected area of the spine
- Pain that radiates to the hips, shoulders and extremities
- Difficulty balancing or walking
- Headaches and dizziness
- Muscle weakness
Spinal stenosis may produce no symptoms at all, or the symptoms may appear slowly and then gradually worsen over time. If you think you are experiencing symptoms of spinal stenosis, it’s important to talk with a physician to confirm the diagnosis and discover the treatment options available to you. In order to help your physician make a diagnosis, here is a check list to help you determine whether or not you may have this condition:
- Do you have occasional or frequent pain or weakness in one or both of your legs?
- Do you occasionally or frequently experience a numbness or tingling sensation in one or both of your legs?
- Do certain activities bring on the pain more than others?
- Do you experience pain or discomfort when you walk?
- If you walk while leaning forward on a shopping cart, does it ease your pain?
- If you sit down and rest when you feel pain, does the pain go away?
- Is the pain inconsistent (only happens every now and then)?
If you answered yes to four or more of these questions, it is possible that you are experiencing the symptoms of spinal stenosis. If you think you have the condition and need assurance, please consult your family physician for a checkup at your earliest convenience.
Your physician will diagnose the problem using a physical examination and perhaps an X-ray or MRI, and then will design a treatment plan catered to your specific case. Generally, spinal stenosis treatments begin conservatively with stretching, exercise and rest. If symptoms persist, your physician may ask you to try prescription medication, physical therapy or steroid injections. In the rare case that pain is severe and untreatable by conventional methods, surgery is an option.
If you have symptoms of spinal stenosis and have tried conservative therapy with no success, Laser Spine Institute offers safer, effective minimally invasive alternatives to traditional open back surgery. Contact us today to hear more about our outpatient procedures, and to request a no-cost review* of your MRI to learn if you are a candidate for minimally invasive treatment at Laser Spine Institute.