Spinal stenosis is a common symptom of several skeletal and muscular conditions that can lead to intense neck or back pain and other symptoms. It occurs when the spinal column narrows and places pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves in the canal, which can result in back pain and shooting pain in other areas of the body.
There are two main types of spinal stenosis:
- Lumbar stenosis, located in the lower back and is often associated with sciatica and pain or weakness in the legs with standing or walking
- Cervical stenosis, located in the neck and can lead to serious conditions such as paralysis
Living with spinal stenosis can be incredibly challenging, as it can limit your ability to move and do the things you love. While there are few treatments that can reverse the effects of spinal stenosis, it is important for sufferers to visit a doctor regularly to stay informed about their spinal health.
Pain medication can provide temporary relief for the symptoms of spinal stenosis, but it’s also important to make lifestyle changes and educate oneself about the condition to manage it effectively. If you are experiencing symptoms related to spinal stenosis or are concerned about your spinal health, it’s vital to consult with a medical professional to discuss treatment options and management strategies. Don’t let spinal stenosis control your life, take control and seek help today.
Common Causes of Spinal Stenosis
- Age: Spinal stenosis is statistically more prevalent in aging populations
- Degenerative disc disease – bone spurs can grow inward toward the spinal canal
- Thickening of spinal ligaments
- Rheumatoid arthritis: Causes joint tissue to swell
- Herniated disc
- Genetics – Some individuals are born with congenital (hereditary) spinal canal stenosis
- Vertebral structural deformities may lead to stenosis
- Spondylolisthesis – a misaligned/shifted or unstable vertebra
- Spinal instability
- Spinal Tumors
- Trauma – ie. vertebral compression fracture of the vertebra or “burst” fracture
Symptoms Related to Spinal Stenosis
Since spinal stenosis is a condition that occurs when the space in the spinal column narrows and puts pressure on the spinal cord, this can lead to a variety of symptoms in addition to back or neck pain. Some more commonly found symptoms of spinal stenosis include:
- Numbness or shooting pain in the arms or legs: This occurs because the pressure on the spinal cord or canal can affect the nerves that run to the extremities. This can cause a tingling or burning sensation, or even make it difficult to move or feel certain parts of the body.
- Weakened muscles or cramps: When the spinal cord is under pressure, it can make it difficult for the muscles in the body to work properly. This can cause muscle weakness or cramps, making it hard to stand or walk.
- Poor Balance
- Difficulty walking or standing: As a result of the muscle weakness, cramps and poor balance, people with spinal stenosis may have difficulty walking or standing for prolonged periods of time.
- Irregular bowel movements: The pressure on the spinal cord can also affect the nerves that control the digestive system, leading to irregular bowel movements.
- Irregular weight gain or loss: Spinal stenosis may also lead to changes in appetite, which can cause weight gain or loss.
- Fever: Sometimes, spinal stenosis can be caused by an infection in the spine, which can cause a fever.
- Headaches: the pressure on the cervical spinal cord can radiate pain from the neck up into the head.
- Difficulty sleeping and concentrating when awake: The pain caused by spinal stenosis can make it difficult to sleep and also affect concentration when awake.
It is important to note that spinal stenosis is a symptom of various underlying conditions, and these symptoms may vary depending on the underlying cause. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to consult with a medical professional to discuss treatment options and management strategies.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis is typically diagnosed after complaints of pain that may also be accompanied by any of the symptoms listed above. From here, the doctor will likely order imaging of the spine. These imaging tests in combination with the history and exam findings should provide the evidence needed for a diagnosis of spinal stenosis.
When it comes to treatment, there are a few options. If the stenosis is mild, the doctor may prescribe medications. For more moderate cases of stenosis, the doctor may recommend spinal injections.
In the absence of any red flags like bowel or bladder issues or worsening neurologic deficits, physical therapy or chiropractic treatment may be explored. Diet and daily exercise can also help to reduce the progression and onset of the condition.
For serious cases of spinal stenosis, surgery may offer the best solution. This aim is to reduce the pressure on the spinal column. Spinal decompression surgery with or without fusion may be required in order to effectively remedy a more serious case of spinal stenosis. In conclusion, patients who believe they have spinal stenosis should consult with a doctor immediately for a proper diagnosis and plan.