Spinal stenosis is different for each person. Some have the condition and never experience a symptom, while others end up with such severe pain they’re forced to limit or stop their daily activities.
You should never give in to the pain caused by spinal stenosis. Even if your symptoms don’t improve with routine medical care, Richard B. Kim, MD, offers advanced treatments that target the source of your pain, providing much-needed relief and helping you return to an active life.
About spinal stenosis
Spinal stenosis develops when the area inside your spinal canal narrows, resulting in painful, pinched nerves. Spinal nerves travel through an opening in the center of each vertebra. The nerves also leave and return to the spinal cord by going through small bony openings.
Since the openings consist of bone, they don’t get smaller or narrow down. Instead, other spinal conditions develop that protrude into the space and compress the nerves.
Risk factors for spinal stenosis
Your chances of developing spinal stenosis increase due to age, genetics, spinal injures, and spinal conditions.
Age is one of the top risk factors for a simple reason: The longer you live, the more wear and tear on your spine. As a result, you’re more likely to develop the degenerative conditions responsible for spinal stenosis.
Some people are born with a spinal canal that’s smaller than usual. On its own, this isn’t a health problem, but it increases your susceptibility to spinal stenosis.
Unlike most causes of spinal stenosis, a traumatic injury can change the bony structures and physically narrow the spinal canal.
Most cases of spinal stenosis occur when you develop one of the following conditions:
- Herniated discs
- Degenerative disc disease
- Thickened ligaments
- Slipped vertebrae
- Bone spurs
- Spinal tumors
- Facet joint arthritis
These conditions all have their own risk factors. Spinal wear and tear as you get older increases your risk. You’re also more likely to develop these problems if you engage in physically demanding work, you’re overweight, you spend prolonged time sitting, you lead a sedentary lifestyle, or you smoke.
Symptoms caused by spinal stenosis
Spinal stenosis causes localized symptoms in your spine and along the pinched nerve. You can develop spinal stenosis in your neck (cervical spine) or lower back (lumbar spine). However, it most often affects the lower back because it bears the stress of supporting your upper body weight.
If you have spinal stenosis, you experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Localized neck or back pain
- Pain that travels down your arms or legs
- Tingling or numbness in your arms or legs
- Muscle weakness in your arms or legs
- Muscle pain along your spine
- Difficulty grasping and holding items (cervical spinal stenosis)
- Difficulty walking and maintaining your balance (lumbar spinal stenosis)
- Pain that gets worse when standing or walking
Spinal stenosis may pinch the sciatic nerve in your lower back, causing sudden, excruciating pain shooting down one leg.
Treatment for spinal stenosis
Spinal stenosis treatment typically proceeds in steps. The first line of treatment involves conservative medical care. At this stage, your treatment typically includes anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and avoiding activities that increase your symptoms.
You may also need to improve your posture and learn to lift without straining your back. Losing weight (if needed) also improves your symptoms.
If your pain doesn’t improve, I recommend interventional procedures or minimally invasive surgery to repair the problem. I thoroughly explain your options so you can make an informed decision about the next step in your treatment.
Interventional procedures, such as epidural steroid injections, facet joint injections, and radiofrequency ablation may substantially ease your pain, allowing you to avoid or postpone surgery. But you may decide that minimally invasive surgery is the best choice for long-lasting pain relief.
Additionally, I recommend surgery if the pinched nerve is severely damaged. Signs of a serious problem include losing bowel or bladder function or developing rapidly progressing leg weakness.
As an expert in minimally invasive spine surgery, I’ve helped many patients overcome spinal stenosis, recover faster, and regain an active life. You may be a good candidate for one of several procedures that decompress the nerve by removing the bones, ligaments, and/or discs causing the problem.
Don’t put up with chronic neck or back pain. I offer comprehensive, safe, and effective care that targets the source of your pain and often produces long-lasting results. To learn more, call the office or book an appointment online today.