This painful condition is caused by spinal column compression and can occur as stenosis of the neck or lumbar (lower back). Learn more about spinal stenosis causes, symptoms, treatments, surgery, and more from our spine experts. Schedule an appointment in Metro Atlanta today!
What You Need To Know About Spinal Stenosis
What is Spinal Stenosis Syndrome?
In a healthy spine, the spinal canal has a rounded, triangular shape that provides an obstruction-free channel for the spinal cord. Each nerve root branches off of the spinal cord and travels through its respective opening, called a foramen, on either side of the vertebrae.
As you age, the bones of your spinal column may change shape and shrink. While the bones may alter their size, the nerves they house do not change. Since the nerves have less space, they are more likely to be compressed due to pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots. The result is spinal stenosis, which can cause numbness, pain, and even weakness in the legs.
Types Of Spinal Stenosis
There are two common types of spinal stenosis: cervical stenosis and lumbar stenosis.
Cervical Spinal Stenosis
Cervical spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal canal narrows from degenerating bones, discs, or joints in the cervical spine (neck).
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Lumbar spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal canal narrows from degenerating bones, discs, or joints in the lower back.
Although there is no cure for spinal stenosis, many treatment options are available to alleviate its symptoms. A Resurgens physician will be able to talk to you about your treatment options. Book an appointment with a Resurgens Spine Center physician to learn more.
Spinal Stenosis Causes
Spinal stenosis is commonly caused by an excess growth of bone around the spinal nerves. This excess bone growth often results from osteoarthritis. Stenosis can also result from a dislocation or a fracture of the vertebral bone.
Stenosis can be caused by soft tissue intruding into the spine's open spaces. Herniated discs, tumors, and thickened spinal ligaments can press against the spinal nerves. Alternatively, some people develop spinal stenosis as a childhood condition known as congenital spinal stenosis.
Spinal Stenosis Symptoms
Spinal stenosis symptoms can vary depending on the location and severity of the problem. The pain from stenosis can occur centrally or in the foramen areas of the body.
Cervical spinal stenosis symptoms and lumbar stenosis symptoms are usually quite similar but occur in their respective sections of the spine. Symptoms may include pain, weakness, numbness, and tingling in the arms and legs. It can also cause problems with the control of the bladder and bowels, and can make walking distances difficult. You may also experience an intense burning sensation in the legs or buttocks, also known as sciatica.
People with stenosis may feel their symptoms lessen when they shift their posture to accommodate their back pain. This is because leaning forward creates space in the narrowed spine and lessens the nerve pressure.
How is Spinal Stenosis Diagnosed?
Your physician will be able to assess your condition with a physical exam and the use of diagnostic screening tools.
During your physical exam, the physician will ask you about your family history and learn about you and your symptoms. They will assess your condition by applying pressure to some areas in your back. Your doctor may also ask you to bend backward, forward, and left to right to diagnose the extent of your pain. Be prepared to experience some mild discomfort during this part of the exam.
If the physical examination doesn't yield conclusive results, your physician will use diagnostic technology to help pinpoint the extent of your condition. Spinal diagnostic tests like X-rays and MRIs will help your physician understand the location and severity of your condition.
Early diagnosis with a physician can help prevent irreversible harm to your nerves. The sooner you are diagnosed, the easier it is to resume an active lifestyle.
Spinal Stenosis Treatment
Cervical spinal stenosis treatment and lumbar spinal stenosis treatment options may include anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants, and medications to relieve pain. Steroid injections may be beneficial. Physical therapy can help you manage your symptoms with rehabilitative stretches, lumbar/abdominal strengthening, and massages. These simple steps can help alleviate your pain.
If you have severe spinal stenosis and these methods are ineffective, surgery may be needed to eliminate pressure on the nerves. Your physician will not recommend surgery unless other procedures have not helped your condition.
There are a few different procedures available that are effective for alleviating spinal stenosis pain. Lumbar spinal stenosis surgery may involve procedures like a laminectomy. Cervical spinal stenosis surgery may involve procedures like a cervical foraminotomy. If the condition is serious, we may recommend spinal fusion surgery.
The physicians at the Resurgens Spine Center pride themselves on helping people get moving again. Schedule an appointment now.