The spinal canal along the lower back can narrow with age and cause spinal stenosis. This gradual process limits the available space in the back for the spinal cord and nerves to exist.
What is it?
Spinal stenosis is usually a gradual, degenerative process that occurs as you get older. The ligaments along the spine can thicken and harden, and vertebrae and joints can enlarge. Each of these changes may cause stress on the spine and lead to painful effects.
Who gets it?
Spinal stenosis may be an inherited or acquired condition. A small spinal canal can be genetic or related to a curved spine called scoliosis. It also may occur from suffering a spinal injury or developing arthritis in the body. Bulging discs or thickened tissues in the spinal area can lead to compression. Stenosis is most common in people over age 50, although younger when it’s an inherited condition.
What are the symptoms?
Although not always present, various symptoms can occur with spinal stenosis. If the narrowed portions of the canal press upon other elements such as nerves, symptoms are likely. This may include numbness, cramping, weakness or pain the legs, arms or neck. Leg pain or numbness can make it difficult to walk normally. Pain may radiate down the legs along the sciatic nerve. In severe cases, the bladder and bowel function might even be affected by spinal stenosis.
How is it diagnosed?
A qualified physician such as spine surgeon Dr. Charla Fischer in New York City is able to correctly diagnose spinal stenosis. Some of the important elements of an office visit usually include a thorough medical history, physical examination, diagnostic testing, and imaging like X-ray or MRI.
What is the treatment?
If you are diagnosed with spinal stenosis, Dr. Fischer will work with you to create the ideal treatment plan. Since the condition typically progresses slowly, a conservative approach will likely be taken. This may include medications to relieve the symptoms, physical therapy, and cortisone injections. If these types of treatments are not effective, Dr. Fischer may recommend surgery. Some of the most common types of back surgeries for spinal stenosis are laminectomy, foraminotomy, and spinal fusion. Your physician will do all it takes to help you avoid surgery, but if that’s the best course of action, follow your doctor’s advice for your best chances at complete recovery.