Spinal Stenosis is a narrowing of one or more areas in your spine — most often in your neck or lower back. This narrowing can put pressure on the spinal cord or narrowing of the openings (called neural foramina) where spinal nerves leave the spinal column.
Depending on which nerves are affected, spinal stenosis can cause pain or numbness in your legs, back, neck, shoulders or arms, limb weakness and loss of coordination, loss of sensation in your extremities, and problems with bladder or bowel function. Pain is not always present, particularly if you have spinal stenosis in your neck.
What Causes Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal Stenosis typically develops as a person ages and the disks of the spine become drier and start to shrink. At the same time, the bones and ligaments of the spine swell or grow larger due to arthritis or chronic inflammation. Other problems, such as infection and birth defects, can sometimes cause spinal stenosis.
Spinal Stenosis may be caused by:
- Arthritis involving the spine, usually in middle-aged or elderly people
- Herniated or slipped disk, which often occurred in the past
- Injury that causes pressure on the nerve roots or the spinal cord itself
- Defect in the spine that was present from birth (congenital defect)
- Tumors in the spine
- Bone diseases, such as Paget’s disease of bone and achondroplasia
Spinal stenosis is commonly caused by age-related changes in the spine. In severe cases of spinal stenosis, doctors may recommend surgery to create additional space for the spinal cord or nerves.
What Are the Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?
There may be pain in your neck, but more often, people experience numbness, weakness, cramping, or general pain in the arms or legs. If the narrowed space within the spine is pushing on a nerve root, you may feel pain radiating down the leg (sciatica). Sitting or flexing the lower back may relieve symptoms in these cases. Flexing exercises are often advised, along with stretching and strengthening exercises.
People with more severe spinal stenosis may have problems with bowel and bladder function as well as foot disorders.
How Is Spinal Stenosis Diagnosed?
The doctors at Anesthesia Pain Care Consultants may use a variety of approaches to diagnose spinal stenosis and rule out other conditions:
- Medical history
- Physical examination
- X ray
- Computerized axial tomography (CAT)
- Bone scan
What Are Some Nonsurgical Treatments for Spinal Stenosis?
In the absence of severe or progressive nerve involvement, a doctor may prescribe one or more of the following conservative treatments:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, naproxen (Naprosyn), ibuprofen (Motrin, Nuprin, Advil), or indomethacin (Indocin), to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
- Analgesics, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), to relieve pain.
- Corticosteroid injections into the outermost of the membranes covering the spinal cord and nerve roots to reduce inflammation and treat acute pain that radiates to the hips or down a leg. Commonly referred to as epidural injections.
- Anesthetic injections, known as nerve blocks, near the affected nerve to temporarily relieve pain.
- Restricted activity (varies depending on extent of nerve involvement).
- Prescribed exercises and/or physical therapy to maintain motion of the spine, strengthen abdominal and back muscles, and build endurance, all of which help stabilize the spine. Some patients may be encouraged to try slowly progressive aerobic activity such as swimming or using exercise bicycles.
- A lumbar brace or corset to provide some support and help the patient regain mobility. This approach is sometimes used for patients with weak abdominal muscles or older patients with degeneration at several levels of the spine.
The pain doctors at Anesthesia Pain Care Consultants specialize in diagnosing and treating spinal stenosis. We have helped many patients Florida suffering with this condition in Tamarac, Coral Springs, Parkland, Ft. Lauderdale, Sunrise, Plantation, Margate, Coconut Creek, Pompano Beach and all of South Florida. In addition, many of our patients come to see our doctors from out of town due to our reputation in this field.