Stenosis OR Spinal Stenosis
Our bodies, including our spines, go through a number of changes while we age. While some are inevitable, others can be treated to ensure that you stay active as you age. Spinal stenosis can be treated or halted more easily the sooner it is diagnosed. Because of this, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible if you have symptoms that are consistent with this condition.
What Is Spinal Stenosis?
Your spinal cord is protected by your vertebrae, which are hollow in the middle to accommodate the spinal cord and nerves. Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal canal inside your vertebrae begins to narrow. This causes compression of the nerves and spinal cord. Most cases of spinal stenosis occur in the lower spine, but they can occur anywhere in spine.
Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis
The most common symptoms of spinal stenosis include cramping or aching in the calves. As the condition advances, sufferers may have difficulty walking or standing due to the pain caused by stenosis.
People with spinal stenosis may also experience tingling, pain, or numbness that radiates from the lower back into the hips, buttocks, and legs. Neck pain and weakness in the arms or legs are also common symptoms.
In severe or advanced cases, impairment of the bladder or bowels can occur.
Because of the associated leg pain, spinal stenosis is often first misdiagnosed as a circulation problem. However, when therapies for circulation are used, the individual will not experience relief.
What Causes Spinal Stenosis?
The typical cause of spinal stenosis is aging. Most people who experience it start having symptoms after age 50. However, there are also cases where people who have scoliosis or other congenital factors develop spinal stenosis earlier. Spondylolisthesis, a slippage and misalignment of the vertebrae, can also cause spinal stenosis.
In most cases, spinal stenosis emerges as a result of degenerative arthritis. The arthritis occurs over many years as a result of daily wear and tear on the spine. Over time, this can lead to a breakdown of the connective tissue that provides cushioning between the bones of the spinal column. This, in turn, increases the risk of bone spurs that can compress the spinal column and the nerves in the spine.
The risk factors for spinal stenosis include obesity, a medical history that includes back pain or back injuries, poor posture, hypertension, and frequent overextension of the back.
Diagnosing Spinal Stenosis
Diagnosis of spinal stenosis starts with a review of your medical history that includes a rundown of your symptoms. A physical exam of your back and your extremities can show your levels of joint stiffness, mobility, reported pain, and other important symptoms.
X-rays, ultrasounds, MRIs, or other imaging tests can allow your doctor to get a more accurate idea of your condition.
Spinal Stenosis Treatments
The most conservative treatments for spinal stenosis include NSAIDs to treat pain and inflammation. Other treatments for this condition can include:
- Spinal cord stimulation - Mild electrical pulses are sent to the spine to interrupt pain signals.
- Epidural nerve blocks - An anesthetic is injected into the epidural layer of the spine to reduce or eliminate pain.
- Radiofrequency neurotomy - The nerves that are involved in sending and receiving pain signals are interrupted, leading to pain relief.
- Physical therapy - Patients can be taught exercises that can reduce pain and decrease the chances of the condition worsening. Yoga is often recommended to reduce pain and improve spinal alignment.
- Chiropractic - Adjustments can relieve pressure and pain.
- Massage - When muscle tightness is causing stress on the vertebrae, massage can help by relaxing muscles. It is also highly beneficial for pain relief.
If the treatments above are not helpful, surgery may be recommended.
Request a Consultation
Are you experiencing symptoms that may be spinal stenosis? Call us to request an appointment. We can diagnose the cause of your pain and create a treatment plan for you.