For many, chronic pain in the neck or lower back can cause pain, tingling numbness and muscle weakness that can worsen over time. But there is one condition that can cause the same symptoms as time progresses, even when asymptomatic in the early stages. That said, you may have spinal stenosis without realizing it. Likewise, your spinal stenosis may be causing you a great deal of pain. While many suffer from spinal stenosis, they might have just attributed their pain to having a bad back or arthritis. Read on to learn more about spinal stenosis, one of the most common orthopedic conditions you may or may not have heard of.
What is spinal stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is considered an overuse injury that occurs when the spaces between the structures of the spine narrow, placing pressure that causes impingement on the nerves. As is the case with overuse injuries, spinal stenosis is caused by wear and tear over time, and often is an indicator of osteoarthritis. Spinal stenosis occurs primarily in the neck and lower back; some people remain symptom-free while others experience shooting pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness and all can worsen over time.
Causes of spinal stenosis
Running from the neck to the tailbone, the spine contains discs that provide protection and serve as shock absorbers against injury to the spinal cord, the main nerve that permits motor function of the body. Over time these discs tend to dry out, becoming compressed and losing effectiveness. In some cases the disc may herniate, causing the disc’s soft jelly-like center to bulge out, putting pressure on the nerve that causes pain and discomfort. Spinal stenosis can be congenital, with those at risk being born with smaller than average canals; other times it is brought on by injury or illness. Trauma from a car crash or fall can cause dislocations that cause the bones to misalign, causing pressure on the spinal cord and surrounding nerves.
Diagnosing spinal stenosis
There are two types of spinal stenosis: lumbar stenosis and cervical stenosis. Lumbar stenosis presents in the lower back with tingling numbness in a foot or the whole leg, accompanied by weakness and pain or cramping when standing for long periods or walking distances. Symptoms of cervical stenosis manifest with numbness or tingling in an arm, hand, foot, or leg marked by weakness, occasional balance problems and of course neck pain. Severe cases have been documented where pain was so bad that bowel and bladder incontinence have occurred. An MRI, CT scan or X-rays have been used to diagnose the condition, which varies widely and is based on the location of the pain.
As symptoms of spinal stenosis vary from person to person, so too can treatment. Mild to moderate effects are managed through interventional pain techniques like injections, nerve blocks, and pain medications. Physical therapy and PRP treatment may provide relief, while more severe cases may require surgical procedures. At Balcones Pain Consultants, our expert pain management consultants will devise a treatment plan that is right for you. If you or someone you know has issues from any kind of painful injury or condition, get them help by calling Balcones Pain Consultants at (512) 834-4141 or, request a consultation online and let debilitating pain be a thing of the past.