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What are the Signs and treatments of Spinal Stenosis?

What are the Signs and treatments of Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a condition where the space inside the spinal canal becomes too narrow. This can put pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves that travel through the spine. Spinal stenosis can cause pain, tingling, numbness and weakness in different parts of the body. It can also affect your balance, bladder and bowel function.

Spinal stenosis can occur in any part of the spine, but it is more common in the lower back (lumbar spine) and the neck (cervical spine). The most common cause of spinal stenosis is wear-and-tear damage from arthritis. Other causes include bone spurs, herniated discs, tumors, thickened ligaments and congenital defects.

In this article, we will discuss the signs and treatments of spinal stenosis, as well as how to prevent it.

Spinal Stenosis Symptoms and Causes

The symptoms of spinal stenosis depend on which part of the spine is affected and how severe the narrowing is. Some people with spinal stenosis have no symptoms at all, while others have mild to severe symptoms that get worse over time.

The symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis include:

  • Pain in the lower back that radiates to the buttocks and legs. The pain may get worse with standing, walking or bending backward, and get better with sitting or leaning forward.
  • Numbness, tingling or cramping in the legs and feet. These may get worse with standing or walking.
  • Weakness in the legs and feet that may affect your ability to walk or balance.
  • Problems with bladder or bowel control in severe cases.

The symptoms of cervical spinal stenosis include:

  • Pain in the neck that may spread to the shoulders, arms and hands.
  • Numbness, tingling or weakness in the arms and hands. These may get worse with extending or turning the neck.
  • Problems with walking and balance due to compression of the spinal cord.
  • Problems with fine motor skills such as writing or buttoning clothes.
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing in severe cases.

The causes of spinal stenosis are usually related to aging and degeneration of the spine. The most common cause is osteoarthritis, which is a type of arthritis that affects the joints and cartilage of the spine. Osteoarthritis can cause inflammation, swelling and formation of bone spurs that can narrow the spinal canal

Other causes of spinal stenosis include:

  • Herniated discs, which are bulging or ruptured discs that can press on the nerves or spinal cord.
  • Scoliosis, which is an abnormal curvature of the spine that can reduce the space in the spinal canal.
  • Tumors, which are abnormal growths of tissue that can compress the nerves or spinal cord.
  • Thickened ligaments, which are bands of tissue that hold the bones of the spine together. They can become stiff and thick with age and bulge into the spinal canal.
  • Congenital defects, which are problems with the development of the spine before birth. Some people are born with a narrow spinal canal or other abnormalities that can cause spinal stenosis.

Spinal Stenosis Diagnosis and Treatment

To diagnose spinal stenosis, your doctor will ask you about your medical history, symptoms and physical activities. They will also perform a physical examination to check your reflexes, muscle strength, sensation and mobility.

Your doctor may also order some imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis and determine the location and severity of the narrowing. These tests may include:

  • X-rays, which are images that show the bones of the spine and any changes such as arthritis or bone spurs.
  • CT scan, which is a type of X-ray that shows more detail of the bones, discs and soft tissues of the spine.
  • MRI scan, which is a test that uses magnetic fields to create images of the spine and show any damage to the nerves or spinal cord.
  • EEG test, which is a test that measures the electrical activity of the brain and can detect any problems with nerve function.

The treatment for spinal stenosis depends on several factors such as your age, health condition, symptoms and preferences. The main goals of treatment are to relieve pain, improve function and prevent further damage to the nerves or spinal cord.

The treatment options for spinal stenosis include:

  • Medication: Your doctor may prescribe some medications to help reduce pain and inflammation. These may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen, analgesics such as acetaminophen, antidepressants such as doxepin or clomipramine, anti-seizure drugs such as gabapentin or pregabalin, or opioids such as oxycodone or hydrocodone. You may also receive steroid injections into the spine to reduce swelling and pressure on the nerves or spinal cord.
  • Physical therapy: Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist who can teach you some exercises and stretches to improve your flexibility, strength and posture. Physical therapy can also help you learn how to use assistive devices such as braces, canes or walkers if needed.
  • Surgery: Your doctor may recommend surgery if your symptoms are 

severe and do not improve with other treatments. Surgery can create more space in the spinal canal by removing some of the bone, disc or ligament that is causing the compression. The type of surgery depends on the location and extent of the stenosis. Some common surgical procedures are:

  •  Laminectomy: This is a surgery that removes part of the lamina, which is the back part of the vertebra that covers the spinal canal. This can create more room for the nerves or spinal cord.
  •  Foraminotomy: This is a surgery that widens the foramen, which is the opening where the nerve root exits the spinal canal. This can relieve pressure on the nerve root.
  •  Spinal fusion: This is a surgery that joins two or more vertebrae together with bone grafts or metal implants. This can stabilize the spine and prevent further narrowing of the spinal canal.

Warning Signs of Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis can sometimes cause serious complications that require immediate medical attention. You should call your doctor or go to the emergency room if you have any of these warning signs:

  • Severe pain that does not improve with rest or medication.
  • Numbness or weakness in both legs that makes it hard to walk or stand.
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control.
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing.
  • Signs of infection such as fever, chills, redness or swelling around the spine.

Stages of Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis can be classified into different stages based on the severity of the symptoms and the degree of narrowing in the spinal canal. The stages are:

  • Mild: You have no symptoms or only mild pain that does not interfere with your daily activities. The narrowing in the spinal canal is less than 50%.
  • Moderate: You have moderate pain that limits some of your activities. You may also have some numbness, tingling or weakness in your arms or legs. The narrowing in the spinal canal is between 50% and 75%.
  • Severe: You have severe pain that prevents you from doing most of your activities. You may also have significant numbness, tingling or weakness in your arms or legs. You may have problems with balance, bladder or bowel function. The narrowing in the spinal canal is more than 75%.

Spinal Stenosis Prevention

You may not be able to prevent spinal stenosis completely, especially if it is caused by aging or congenital defects. However, you can take some steps to reduce your risk of developing or worsening spinal stenosis. These include:

  • Avoid smoking, as it can damage your spine and increase inflammation.
  • Maintain a healthy weight, as excess weight can put more pressure on your spine and joints.
  • Exercise regularly, as it can strengthen your muscles and bones and improve your posture and flexibility.
  • Avoid lifting heavy objects or doing activities that strain your back. If you have to lift something, use proper techniques such as bending your knees and keeping your back straight.
  • Use ergonomic furniture and equipment at work and home, such as chairs, desks and keyboards that support your spine and reduce stress on your neck and back.
  • Get enough calcium and vitamin D, as they are essential for bone health and can prevent osteoporosis.
  • See your doctor regularly for check-ups and screenings, especially if you have a family history of spinal stenosis or other spine problems.

Can Stenosis Be Reversed?

Spinal stenosis cannot be reversed completely, but it can be treated to slow down its progression and improve its symptoms. Treatment options include medication, physical therapy and surgery. The best treatment for you depends on several factors such as your age, health condition, symptoms and preferences.

Medical disclaimer

This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. You should consult your doctor before starting any treatment for spinal stenosis.

Wrap-Up

Spinal stenosis is a condition where the space inside the spinal canal becomes too narrow. This can put pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves that travel through the spine. Spinal stenosis can cause pain, tingling, numbness and weakness in different parts of the body. It can also affect your balance, bladder and bowel function.

Spinal stenosis can be diagnosed by physical examination and imaging.

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If you are interested in learning more about spinal stenosis or other pain management options, please contact us at Spine and Pain Clinic Of Texas. We are a team of experienced and compassionate pain specialists who can help you find the best solution for your condition. To schedule an appointment, please call +1 (214) 256-3900 or visit our website www.spinenapin.org to explore our services.

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