What Is Spinal Stenosis?
This condition is marked by the narrowing of one or more areas of your spine. This narrowing, often in your neck or lower back, puts pressure on the spinal cord and spinal nerves.
How Does It Happen?
Age is a primary factor in developing spinal stenosis. As you get older, you can develop bone spurs on your spine, which can make the spinal passages more narrow. You can also experience disc degeneration and thickened ligaments, both of which can affect your spine. Other causes include genetic disorders, spinal tumors, and spinal injuries.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms?
The signs of spinal stenosis often begin slowly and gradually get worse. Here are some symptoms to consider:
Neck and shoulder pain
Numbness or weakness in your legs, feet, or arms
Leg cramps when you walk or stand for long periods of time
Loss of bladder or bowel control
How Is It Diagnosed?
The symptoms of spinal stenosis can be similar to those of other conditions, so diagnosis is sometimes difficult. After doing a physical exam, your doctor may use imaging tests such as spinal x-rays, computerized tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to further review your spine.
How Is It Treated?
You may find relief from over-the-counter pain medications, or your doctor may prescribe stronger options, such as antidepressants, opioids, and anti-seizure drugs. He or she may also try giving you pain management injections at the affected area. Another treatment you may benefit from is physical therapy. It will teach you exercises to strengthen your muscles, improve your balance, and increase your flexibility.
If conservative treatments have not helped, you may require surgery. Spinal fusion can fuse vertebrae together to increase spinal stability, while spinal decompression can relieve pressure and create more room in your spinal canal. Learn more about BayCare's Spine Care Centers.
What Is the Prognosis?
In most cases, you can manage the pain of spinal stenosis through physical therapy and medication. If you require surgery, you may need several weeks to recover, and sometimes surgery does not relieve all of the symptoms.