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A common condition that causes compression of the spinal nerves is called spinal stenosis. This means that the gaps between the bones of the spine, or vertebrae, become narrowed. This squeezes the spinal canal, which pinches the nerves and spinal cord, often leading to pain, numbness, or weakness. Spinal stenosis is a condition that back specialists like Dr. Charla Fischer at NYU Langone in NYC see often in their practices.

Who is at risk?
Spinal stenosis may be congenital, which is something you are born with, or acquired. Acquired spinal stenosis develops as the spine ages or as a result of a medical condition. Some conditions that increase the risk for spinal stenosis are having scoliosis, too much calcium or fluoride, or previous spinal trauma or surgery.

What causes it?
The most common trigger for spinal stenosis is osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition that impacts the spine and adjacent structures with age. Certain types of arthritis may cause stenosis, including rheumatoid arthritis, Paget’s disease, or ankylosing spondylitis. Bone spurs on the vertebrae, joint inflammation between vertebrae, ligament thickening around the spine, tumors of the spine, or scoliosis are other causes of spinal stenosis.

What are the symptoms?
Spinal stenosis can have a variety of symptoms like pain, numbness, weakness or cramps. Although not limited to this area, symptoms are most common in the legs or feet. These sensations may begin gradually and worsen over time. Severe spinal stenosis patients can have partial or full paralysis in the legs, requiring an immediate call for emergency treatment.

How is spinal stenosis diagnosed?
An experienced physician like Dr. Charla Fischer can diagnose spinal stenosis after taking a complete medical history, learning about symptoms, and performing a physical examination. X-ray, CT scan, MRI, myelogram, electromyogram, or blood testing may be recommended for complete diagnosis. 

What about treatment?
Since spinal stenosis may worsen with time, patients often seek treatment from Dr. Charla Fischer at NYU Langone to relieve symptoms and stabilize the condition. Common treatments may include:

  • Over-the-counter medications like anti-inflammatories and acetaminophen
  • Prescription drugs like opioids, muscle relaxants, or steroid injections
  • Regular exercise as directed by a qualified physician
  • Physical therapy
  • Stretching routines
  • Spinal decompression surgery

Contact Dr. Fischer today schedule a consultation to see what treatment is best for you.