Spinal stenosis is a troublesome condition that generally affects the spines of older adults. The reason it tends to occur in adults in midlife is because it is brought upon by a narrowing of your spinal canal, which happens after decades of stress. Today, we’re going to take a look at what forces cause this condition to occur, what symptoms are associated with spinal stenosis, and how the problem is treated.
Causes and Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis
As we alluded to in the introductory paragraph, spinal stenosis is caused by a narrowing of the spinal canal, but that’s not the only factor at work. The narrowing of your spinal canal reduces the space around the spinal cord or nerves in the canal. If an area becomes too narrow, those structures become compressed, and stenosis sets in. Compression from spinal stenosis can also occur due to a break down in the cartilage between discs, osteoarthritis in the spine, or because of an injury or tumor than puts abnormal pressure on spinal structures.
Symptoms of spinal stenosis are similar to that of a pinched nerve, and they include:
- Regionalized pain
- Shooting pain
- A pins and needles-like sensation
- Leg weakness
- Difficulty standing
- Loss of bladder control or difficulty going to the bathroom
Diagnosis and Treatment of Spinal Stenosis
If you’re dealing with any of the above symptoms, you’ll want to head in to a specialist for a diagnosis. A diagnosis of spinal stenosis will be a pretty straightforward process. The doctor will ask you about your symptoms and then conduct a physical exams to see where pain is isolated. Then, they’ll likely confirm the diagnosis with an imaging test, like an x-ray, MRI or CT scan.
Once the diagnosis has been confirmed, a treatment plan can begin to be formed. Although there is no way to widen your spinal canal, there are some conservative treatments that can help alleviate pain, including anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants, corticosteroid injections, nerve blocks or regular exercise.
Surgery for spinal stenosis is generally reserved for individuals who are struggling to walk or who have bladder issues due to their stenosis, because as we mentioned above it’s impossible to re-widen your spinal canal. However, there are procedures that can increase the space between the vertebrae should they be compressing a nerve. Procedures like a laminectomy and laminoplasty operation have high success rates and can provide temporary or full relief depending on the source of your compression.
For more information on your options or to talk to a back specialist about your pain, contact Dr. Chang today.