Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of spaces within the spine, which can lead to pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. There are two different forms of spinal stenosis that can occur.
- Lumbar Stenosis: This type of spinal stenosis is the most common, making up around 75% of cases. This occurs when the spinal nerve roots of the lower back are compressed, resulting in sciatica symptoms – tingling, numbness and weakness. These sensations often radiate out from the lower back, affecting the buttocks and legs.
- Cervical Stenosis: Though less common, cervical spinal stenosis is far more concerning than lumbar stenosis. This condition occurs when tightening of the spinal canal compresses the spinal cord in the neck. Cervical stenosis can cause serious symptoms that include major bodily weakness and sometimes even paralysis. An individual with this condition may experience shooting pains in the arms and legs. It is often arm pain that initially prompts the patient to seek medical attention.
What Causes Spinal Stenosis?
Some individuals are born with a smaller spinal canal, however most cases of spinal stenosis develop as a result of something else that reduces the amount of space within the spine. Common causes of spinal stenosis can include:
- Overgrowth of bone
- Spinal injuries
- Herniated discs
- Thickened ligaments
The aging process itself can often be attributed to the cause of spinal stenosis. As we get older, changes occur in the spine which can cause constriction, including hardening or thickening of the bands of tissue that support the spine, bone spurs and the enlargement of certain bones and joints. Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can contribute to spinal stenosis as well, which is why this condition is more common in people over the age of 50.
What are the Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?
The symptoms of spinal stenosis vary depending on the location of the stenosis itself. These symptoms often begin gradually and worsen over time.
Symptoms of Lumbar Stenosis
- Pain or cramping in the legs when walking or standing for long periods
- Pain is intermittent as opposed to continuous
- Pain is relieved upon sitting, lying down or bending forward
Symptoms of Cervical Stenosis
- Tingling, numbness or weakness in a foot, leg, hand or arm
- Pain in the arms
- A heavy feeling in the legs
- Changes in walking pattern
- Difficulty with fine motor skills like typing or writing
- Shoulder weakness
- Bowel and bladder issues
Spinal Stenosis Treatment
There are a number of nonsurgical options for treating spinal stenosis. These noninvasive approaches focus on relieving pain and restoring function. While nonsurgical treatments do not improve the narrowing of the spinal canal, they can be very effective in controlling the symptoms of spinal stenonis, enabling the patient to live a more comfortable life.
These treatments may include:
- Physical therapy
- Pain medications
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Steroid injections
- Chiropractic manipulation
In severe cases where conservative treatments have failed to provide relief, surgery may be a viable option. Spinal stenosis surgery usually entails removal of the tissue or bone that is pressing on the nerve root, effectively creating more space in the spinal canal.
Learn More About Spinal Stenosis Treatment in Austin
If you are experiencing pain or believe you may be suffering from spinal stenosis, please give our Austin practice a call today to schedule an appointment. Simply call (512) 981-7246 or fill out our appointment request form.