Spinal stenosis is caused by the narrowing of the spaces in your spine, putting pressure on your spinal cord as well as your other nerves. Exacerbated by wear and tear on your spine, stenosis is most commonly seen in older people. However, younger people who have worked in physically demanding occupations can also develop spinal stenosis. Only a qualified back specialist can provide you with an accurate diagnosis, but here are some of the most common spinal stenosis symptoms.
Cervical spinal stenosis, which affects the cervical (upper) part of the spine, is generally experienced as neck pain. The increased pressure in the cervical spine can lead to tingling or numbness in the arms, legs, hands, or feet. In severe cases, cervical spinal stenosis can cause problems with the nerves connected to the bladder or bowels, leading to incontinence.
Other sufferers experience lumbar spinal stenosis, with pain focused on the lower (lumbar) portion of the back. Lumbar spinal stenosis can cause your legs to cramp or feel pain when standing for long periods of time. A clue that this pain may be caused by lumbar spinal stenosis is if pain is decreased or goes away when you bend over or sit down.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment to see a back specialist, who can give you a definitive diagnosis. Some people, however, suffer from spinal stenosis without experiencing any symptoms. Instead, the diagnosis of stenosis is made when they are tested for other health concerns (for example, when examining x-rays).
Spinal stenosis symptoms will increase over time, as the spine is exposed to more use — after all, you can’t stop using your spine completely. If pain is causing you to withdraw from your normal activities, you need to take steps to get your life back. Avoidance will only lead to a decreased quality of life, and again, once degeneration has begun, the symptoms will only increase in magnitude.
An accurate diagnosis from an expert back physician is the first step in pain management and recovery from stenosis. Spinal stenosis treatment can include minimally invasive laser spine surgery, which can create more space for your spinal cord and nerves, easing the pressure and relieving stenosis pain. Your exact treatment plan will depend on your individual circumstances, and Dr. Kamson or another of the expert physicians at the Spine Institute Northwest will work closely with you and your loved ones to determine what’s best for you.