What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of back pain? Is it herniated discs? Pinched nerves? Pulled muscles? While these are common causes of neck pain and back pain, there’s another condition that often causes issues, especially as you get older: spinal stenosis.
Unlike other types of back pain, spinal stenosis involves the spinal canal. More specifically, it means the spinal cavity becomes more narrow. In the earliest stages of the condition, you likely don’t notice an issue. However, as it worsens, it can trigger uncomfortable symptoms that interfere with everyday life.
Our team at Glaser Pain Relief Center has the skills and experience required to diagnose and treat all forms of chronic pain, including those associated with spinal stenosis. Here, we take a closer look at this condition and how you can find relief.
Spinal stenosis basics
It’s easy to think of the spine as one solid structure. However, your backbone is formed by 24 individual bones, or vertebrae, stacked on top of each other. This column starts at the base of your skull and ends at your pelvis, with a narrow channel at its center to protect your spinal cord.
Think of your spinal cord as the main communication superhighway between your brain and your entire body. Every message sent back and forth passes along this cord, branching off along individual nerve roots between the vertebrae to reach specific parts of your body.
When you have spinal stenosis, the internal structure of your spinal column changes, causing it to become more narrow. When this occurs, your spinal cord and nerve roots can get pinched or compressed, causing pain.
Causes of spinal stenosis
While it’s possible to have a narrow spinal canal from birth, your chances of developing spinal stenosis increase once you reach 50. Two of the leading causes include bone spurs associated with osteoarthritis and bulging or herniated discs.
Additional issues that can cause spinal stenosis include:
- Thickened ligaments holding the spine together, often from arthritis
- Spinal injuries and fractures
- Growths (cysts or tumors) within the spinal cord or between the spinal cord and vertebrae
- Congenital spinal deformities, like scoliosis
You usually don’t experience noticeable symptoms in the early stages of spinal stenosis. However, as the spinal canal grows increasingly smaller, it can trigger several telltale signs.
Symptoms of spinal stenosis
Spinal stenosis can develop anywhere in your spine, but it’s most common in your lower back and neck. Problems associated with spinal stenosis include:
- Neck pain or lower back pain
- Weakness, tingling, or numbness below the compressed nerve, such as in your arm, hand, buttock, foot, or leg
- Balance issues
- Loss of hand function
- Pain that improves when you bend or lean slightly forward
In severe cases, spinal stenosis can even cause loss of bladder or bowel control.
Finding relief for spinal stenosis
After reaching a comprehensive diagnosis, we can help outline the most effective treatment strategy to ease your symptoms.
Sometimes, the best strategy involves physical therapy or lifestyle modifications. However, for more severe symptoms, we often rely on minimally invasive approaches, like targeted injections, radiofrequency ablation, or spinal cord stimulation.
When your symptoms don’t respond to more conservative methods, we might suggest surgery. However, most people living with spinal stenosis don’t require this course of treatment.
Could you have spinal stenosis? Don’t put off getting a diagnosis and treatment. Contact Glaser Pain Relief Center to schedule an evaluation with our interventional pain management specialists by calling 424-402-1240 or requesting a visit online today.