lumbar spinal stenosisWhat is spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is a chronic condition which occurs when the spine has been compressed. It is common among older adults due to age-related wear and tear on the body. The spinal cord narrows over time, pressing on spinal nerves, which leads to a gradual increase in pain and dysfunction.  Hampton Roads Orthopaedics Spine & Sports Medicine explains the symptoms and treatment options for those suffering from spinal stenosis.

What are the symptoms and risk factors?

Spinal stenosis symptoms vary based on where the nerve compression is located. The Mayo Clinic states that symptoms in the neck include numbness, tingling, weakness in the extremities, as well as trouble walking, neck pain, and bowel and bladder dysfunction in severe cases. Stenosis in the lower back may cause foot and leg numbness, tingling, weakness, and pain when standing or walking for long periods of time.  

Some people are at greater risk for developing spinal stenosis than others. According to the American College of Rheumatology, the condition is more likely to develop if you are a woman, you are 50 years or older, you were born with a small spinal canal, or you had a previous spine surgery or injury. Some age-related medical conditions can also lead to spinal stenosis, such as osteoarthritis or bone spurs. Spinal stenosis can also occur when the spine is fractured or dislocated in an automobile or motorcycle accident. Fox News personality Heather Childers, who was involved in an automobile crash as a teenager, was rushed into surgery in June 2018 after symptoms rapidly worsened.

How is spinal stenosis diagnosed and treated?

Physicians diagnose the condition through medical imaging tests to detect which nerves are compressed. However, Mayo Clinic states that many people may have evidence of it on a CT scan or MRI but experience no symptoms. So it is important to share any symptoms you have with your physician. A wide range of non-surgical treatments are available. According to the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), non-surgical treatment includes physical therapy, stretching, massage, anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections to reduce inflammation, acupuncture, and spinal manipulation. Surgery to decompress or fuse the spine is reserved for patients with severe conditions and most patients make a full recovery over the course of time. The AAOS states that recovery may be quicker from minimally invasive surgical treatments which have been developed in the past few years.

What should I do if I think I’m developing spinal stenosis?

Don’t let back and leg pain take over your life. Contact our experienced medical team at Hampton Roads Orthopaedic Spine & Sports Medicine to learn more about treatment options and how we can help you get back to what you love.