Back pain can impact every part of your life, from whether you can comfortably sit or stand to how you do your job. New York Mets third baseman David Wright has been a notable example lately. Though Wright himself and officials with the Mets have downplayed the issue, many commentators have noticed that Wright is throwing differently and with less strength than in the past. Why the sudden change? According to insiders, it’s the result of spinal stenosis. Why would that cause such a difference in Wright’s performance? Keep reading to learn more about what stenosis is and how it impacts sufferers.
What is Spinal Stenosis?
Stenosis is a condition where lost space puts undue pressure on parts of the body. In the case of spinal stenosis, it refers to the narrowing of space in or near the spinal column, which puts pressure on the spinal cord and/or adjacent nerves. It’s most common in the lower back, where it can cause pain not only in that region but also in the legs. Though the term “stenosis” is often generically used to refer to spinal stenosis, this kind of narrowing can happen in other parts of the body (for example, impeding arteries rather than nerves).
What Causes Spinal Stenosis?
A wide variety of conditions can cause symptoms of spinal stenosis, which is why it’s important to get a professional opinion if you are experiencing severe back pain that doesn’t go away. The most common cause is probably degenerated or injured discs, which can be caused by injuries (from a slipped disc to spondylolisthesis) or by wear-and-tear from aging or overuse. If vertebrae are moved out of alignment, or if there is “extra” tissue (like from a bulging disc or a bone spur) that gets in the way, this can reduce the amount of space around the spinal cord. Stenosis can also be caused by other problems, including osteoarthritis or tumors along the spine.
What Are the Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?
The symptoms of spinal stenosis vary depending on what nerves are impacted and where. Though cervical stenosis and lumbar stenosis may both be the result of pressure on the spinal cord, because these happen in different regions of the back, the type of pain the sufferer feels will differ. People suffering from lumbar stenosis tend to have pain and/or numbness that extend into one or both legs. All of your body’s nerves begin at your spinal cord; if there’s pressure on one of these nerves, pain will likely be felt at the site where the nerve branches off from your spine as well as in the part of the body served by that nerve.
How is Spinal Stenosis Treated?
Treatments for spinal stenosis are highly dependent on what is actually causing the symptoms. Again, because stenosis can be brought on by so many different kinds of injury and illness, it’s important to have an accurate diagnosis. Some people can manage stenosis pain with over-the-counter medications, or with lifestyle changes like core-strengthening exercise and posture correction. Stenosis pain that is caused by a problem like a herniated disc is less likely to respond to these types of conservative treatments. When these options have failed to relieve pain, surgery may become the sufferer’s best option. Minimally invasive spine procedures can be used to relieve the pressure on the nerves. For example, endoscopically assisted decompression allows surgeons to remove excess bone or disc tissue via an extremely small incision.
At the Spine Institute Northwest, we specialize in minimally invasive treatments that allow people suffering from conditions like spinal stenosis to find relief from pain without having to undergo an intensive surgical procedure and a lengthy recovery. To learn more, call 206-496-0630 and talk to one of our patient advocates.