Spinal Stenosis

What is Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces within the spine, this puts pressure on the nerves that travel through this area. This process is often gradual and can occur anywhere along the spine. Depending on the part of the spine affected, it may be referred to as central stenosis or foraminal stenosis. 

What is the cause of Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis often is caused by normal aging and degeneration of the spine as you get older. With this, overgrowth of the bones in your spine may occur due to osteoarthritis and put pressure on the spinal cord. Other conditions that can also cause spinal stenosis are scoliosis, spinal birth defects, herniated discs, thickened ligaments, and spinal injuries. To learn more about this, click here

What are the symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?

The symptoms of spinal stenosis are progressive as the spinal cord becomes more compressed. You may experience weakness in your extremities, back pain while standing or walking, numbness in your legs or buttocks, and balance problems. The symptoms may affect both legs, but the symptoms can be worse in one leg than the other. Sitting down may help relieve these symptoms, but the pain and discomfort may return with walking or standing. Though it may feel better with rest, it is important to stay as active as possible even if it is uncomfortable.

How is Spinal Stenosis diagnosed?

Spinal stenosis will present with limited lower back extension, muscle weakness, and sensory deficits on physical exam. Spinal stenosis is confirmed with an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan. An electromyogram or nerve conduction study checks the health of the spinal nerves and a bone scan can be done to look for damage or growths of the spine.

How is Spinal Stenosis treated?

Treatment varies depending on the severity of your signs and symptoms, however, your doctor will work with you to figure out what treatment is best for you. Some temporary treatment modalities include conservative treatments to minimize pain like applying hot or cold packs, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, or using a cane for assistance. Your doctor may prescribe medications such as Ibuprofen or Aleve to relieve the pain temporarily. If there is no relief with these medications, then your doctor may consider giving muscle relaxers or steroid injections to reduce the inflammation. Other methods of treatment that may be considered are physical therapy, spinal manipulation, acupuncture, or massage. Though only a small number of patients choose to do surgery, it is also an option that must be discussed with your doctor. To learn more about these procedures click here.

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