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A Guide To Spinal Stenosis And It’s Symptoms

Mar 29, 2022

Our bodies provide us support, mobility, comfort, and resistance to the rough and tumble of daily existence. However, nearly 80% of people experience back pain at some point in their lives. One of the major reasons for this pain is the degenerative condition called Spinal Stenosis. Most victims of chronic back pain suffer from spinal stenosis. In this blog, we are going to deconstruct what spinal stenosis is and what are some of the common symptoms to look out for.

What Is Spinal Stenosis?

It is a medical condition in which one or more spaces between your spine start to narrow, leading to the narrowing of the spinal canal. This tightening of space causes the spinal cord and nerves that branch off from your spinal cord to irritate, compress, or pinch, leading to back pain and sciatica. Most common reasons for spinal stenosis are age-related changes such as osteoarthritis or "wear-and-tear" in your spine and, therefore, usually develops gradually. This is why, in most cases, it takes ages to witness any symptoms.

Where Does Spinal Stenosis Occur?

It can occur anywhere along the spine but mostly in two areas:

  • Lower back (lumbar canal stenosis).
  • Neck (cervical spinal stenosis).

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Lumbar canal stenosis refers to narrowing of the spinal canal or the tunnels, which serve as a communication pathway between nerves and that canal. This usually happens due to aging factors that decrease the size of the canal. The spinal canal or the side canals that are responsible for protecting the nerves often start to pinch the nerve root of the spinal cord and force them to become increasingly irritated due to the narrowing process.

Cervical Spinal Stenosis

Cervical spinal stenosis refers to narrowing of the spinal canal or the spinal nerve root passages in your neck. This also happens because of aging factors such as degeneration of disc space and joints.

Symptoms Of Spinal Stenosis:

In most cases, the symptoms of spinal stenosis are not apparent when it first develops. It is a slow process that worsens over time. Although narrowing of the spinal canal can happen anywhere along the spinal column, yet the lower back and neck are the most common areas. It is also normal to have different symptoms than other sufferers as they vary from person to person and may come and go.

Symptoms of Lumbar Canal Stenosis (lower back) include:

  • Lower back pain - often described as a dull ache or tenderness, or an electric-like or burning sensation that may come and go.
  • Sciatica - pain that starts in the buttocks, travels down the leg and continues into your foot.
  • A heavy feeling in the legs often resulting in cramps in one or both legs.
  • Buttocks, legs, or feet may experience numbness or tingling.
  • Weakness in the leg or foot (as the stenosis worsens).
  • Increase in pain while standing for long periods of time, walking, or walking downhill.
  • Decrease in pain while sitting, leaning, bending slightly forward, or walking uphill.
  • May lose control over bladder or bowel (in severe cases).

Symptoms of Cervical Spinal Stenosis include:

  • Severe neck pain.
  • Arm, hand, leg, or foot may experience numbness or tingling.
  • Arm, hand, leg, or foot may feel weak or clumsy.
  • Problems with balance.
  • Hands don't function efficiently.
  • May lose control over bladder or bowel (in severe cases).

Spinal Stenosis Causes Permanent Paralysis: Fact Or Myth?

Although it is not common, however, if the condition is left unattended, the narrowing of the spine can cause the spinal nerve to be compressed for a long period of time, resulting in permanent numbness or paralysis. Therefore, seeking advice from a healthcare provider is important.

Preventions

Although you can’t completely prevent it since most causes are normal age-related “wear and tear” conditions, such as osteoarthritis and loss of bone and muscle mass. However, there are certain measures that you can take in your daily life to lower your risk or slow the progression of spinal stenosis, such as:

  • Adopting a healthy diet.
  • Maintaining an ideal body weight.
  • Avoid smoking
  • Maintaining a good posture. (Specially during long work hours)
  • Exercising regularly. (However, avoid exercises such as heavy weight lifting that put a lot of stress on your back)
  • Incorporate yoga/stretching in your routine
  • Use Orthopedic Pillows & Mattresses

You might also want to read: A Guide To Spinal Stenosis And It’s Symptoms

Activities to prevent spinal stenosis

Seek Help From A Health Care Professional

If you have any of the symptoms of spinal stenosis, we understand how distressing and overwhelming this can be. It is likely that you have several questions and concerns. This is why seeking help from a Neurosurgeon can help prevent things from getting worse, especially if your symptoms persist. 

It's important to understand that although there is not much you can do to prevent spinal stenosis, however, with technological advancements in the medical space, most cases can be treated with a combination of surgical and nonsurgical treatments, such as pain medication, physical therapy, activity modification, epidural injections, or surgery (as a last resort). 

Fortunately, the health care team at South California Brain and Spine Surgery is well versed with all the latest treatment options available in the industry today. They will help you determine the best treatment options that are right for you. For more information or to discuss your case, contact us through our website or reach us at 213-369-4583 to speak with our spine specialists.

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