Learn more about Spinal Stenosis and the treatment options available.
More common among older adult males, spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal. It’s often caused by age-related changes to the spine, although it can also be present at birth. Treatment will depend on the severity of the spinal narrowing and the symptoms experienced because of it.
- Can also develop as a result of injury or conditions like disc herniation, arthritis, Paget’s disease, and spinal tumors
- Surgery is a last resort
CONTACT US TODAY
Signs and Symptoms
It’s possible to have spinal stenosis with no symptoms at all. If symptoms do develop, discomfort is usually felt in the lower back or neck. Spinal narrowing may also result in:
- Sciatic nerve pain that’s felt in the legs, buttocks, or thighs
- Difficulty standing or walking (claudication)
- Leg weakness that causes feet to drop
- Neck pain
- Bowel or bladder dysfunction (requires immediate attention)
Diagnosing Spinal Stenosis
A physical exam that includes a patients’ medical history and discussion of symptoms experienced is usually the first step at attempting to diagnose spinal stenosis. In addition to X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans, testing may also include an electromyelogram to evaluate spinal nerves. A bone scan may also be done to check for abnormalities within the spine.
Medications are usually first recommended to ease discomfort from spinal narrowing. Such medications typically include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to ease the swelling that can sometimes place pressure on nerves in tight spinal areas. Opiate painkillers may be recommended, but such medications are only meant for short-term use due to the risk of developing an addiction. Some patients report relief from:
- Hot and cold applications
- Massage therapy
- Chiropractic adjustments
If traditional medications aren’t effective, epidural steroid injections (ESIs) may be suggested. ESIs for spinal stenosis are usually used to treat radiating leg pain. Injections are placed directly into the affected area, often resulting in immediate relief, although the results are temporary since injections do not treat the actual source of discomfort. However, some patients are able to actively participate in physical therapy after receiving an injection, which can strengthen muscles that support the spine and provide relief.
Surgery for Spinal Stenosis
Should symptoms be severe enough to affect quality of life or life-threatening in nature, surgery may be recommended to correct issues related to spinal stenosis. Ideally, patients undergoing surgery for spinal narrowing should be in otherwise good health. Part of the vertebrae may be removed (laminectomy) or the area where spinal nerve roots exit may be widened (foraminotomy). In some situations, a spinal fusion may be recommended, especially if multiple levels of the spine are affected.
In addition to avoiding smoking, maintaining good posture while sitting and standing, enjoying a healthy diet that includes nutrient-rich foods, and getting regular exercise that includes stretching to maintain and improve flexibility can minimize your risk of experiencing painful symptoms associated with spinal stenosis. If you do have pain that may be related to spinal narrowing, an orthopedic specialist can recommend appropriate treatment options.