Spinal stenosis is a common condition that can occur anywhere along the spine but appears most frequently in the neck (cervical spine) or lower back (lumbar spine). Not everyone with spinal stenosis develops symptoms, but the condition can cause debilitating pain that may limit your ability to walk, sit, or stand without discomfort.
Dr. Richard B. Kim is a board-certified neurosurgeon who specializes in matters of the spine at his thriving practice in Newport Beach, California. Serving residents throughout Orange County and Los Angeles, Dr. Kim is well known and highly respected for his medical expertise regarding back conditions linked to chronic pain.
Here’s what this talented physician has to say about spinal stenosis and how it’s treated.
Understanding spinal stenosis
Spinal stenosis describes narrowing of the naturally occurring spaces within your spine, through which nerves travel through and exit the spinal column. As these spaces narrow, the affected nerves become irritated and inflamed, which causes the pain and other symptoms associated with spinal stenosis.
Depending on which portion of your spine is affected, spinal stenosis can lead to:
- Neck pain
- Back pain
- Numbness or tingling in your leg, foot, arm, or hand
- Sensation of weakness in your arms or legs that can worsen as the condition progresses
- Cramping in one or both legs that typically worsens with standing or walking and decreases with leaning forward
- Loss of bowel or bladder function
Spinal stenosis often causes worsening symptoms as the underlying condition responsible for the spinal narrowing advances.
What causes spinal stenosis?
Osteoarthritis (OA), a wear-and-tear type of arthritis usually associated with aging or overuse, is the most common cause of spinal stenosis. OA often leads to degenerative changes in the spine that alter the anatomical structures of the backbone and squeeze off the space nerves require within the spinal processes.
Changes in the spine that can lead to stenosis (narrowing) include:
- Herniated disc
- Bony overgrowths (bone spurs)
- Thickening and stiffening of spinal ligaments
- Spinal injury sustained during a fall or other trauma
While rare, abnormal growths (tumors) can also form along or within the spinal column and lead to stenosis.
Treating spinal stenosis
After identifying the cause and extent of your spinal stenosis, Dr. Kim may recommend conservative treatment such as:
- Physical therapy
- Modification of activities that trigger your symptoms
- Oral medication
- Epidural steroid injections to soothe irritated and inflamed nerves
If your symptoms don’t respond to conservative therapy or the stenosis is severe, Dr. Kim may recommend a minimally invasive surgical procedure to address the underlying damage and resolve your symptoms.
The many benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery compared to traditional or “open” back surgery include:
- Smaller incision sites
- Reduced surgical pain
- Decreased risk of bleeding and infection
- A shorter hospital stay
- Quicker healing and faster return to normal activities
As part of his dedication to providing outstanding medical care that’s designed to fit your individual needs and circumstances, Dr. Kim discusses your treatment options and outcome expectations in detail before scheduling any procedure.
Schedule a visit with Dr. Kim today to discuss the most effective treatment available for your neck or back pain. Call the office at (949) 988-7855, or book your appointment online using our convenient tool.