If you suffer from lower back pain or neck pain, spinal stenosis could be the root cause of your discomfort. As many as 11% of Americans have spinal stenosis and live with back pain and symptoms such as numbness and tingling sensations in their arms and legs.
While spinal stenosis isn't reversible, treatment is available to alleviate your pain and restore your mobility and quality of life.
What is spinal stenosis?
Spinal stenosis occurs when your spinal column narrows. The condition most often affects your cervical (neck) or lumbar (lower) spine. Your spine consists of 33 stacked vertebrae that create a column that holds and protects your spinal cord. When your spinal column narrows, the space available for your spinal cord and other nerves decreases, which increases your risk of nerve compression and irritation.
What are the risk factors for spinal stenosis?
Some of the most common causes of spinal stenosis are osteoarthritis and inflammatory spondyloarthritis. A spinal tumor, herniated disc, or bone spurs can also cause spinal narrowing. In rare cases, Paget’s disease can cause spinal stenosis.
Risk factors for spinal stenosis include:
- Spine injuries
- Spinal irregularities such as scoliosis
While spinal stenosis can’t be reversed, treatment is available to address your pain.
How is spinal stenosis treated?
At Premier Spine Institute, Bonaventure Ngu, MD, provides expert diagnosis and customized treatment plans for spinal stenosis.
The first step in treating spinal stenosis is confirming your diagnosis. Dr. Ngu performs a comprehensive exam and uses imaging studies such as X-rays, MRIs, and CT myelograms to study your spine in more detail and confirm that your symptoms are due to stenosis.
Your treatment plan usually includes several treatments to alleviate your pain and address the condition causing it. Your treatment plan may include medication, physical therapy, and spinal injections. For example, Dr. Ngu may suggest that you take over-the-counter pain relievers to address your pain.
Spinal injections deliver a powerful corticosteroid to reduce inflammation as well as a local anesthetic to provide both an immediate pain killer and longer-term relief.
Physical therapy can help you develop strength and flexibility in the muscles and connective tissue that support your spine as well as your overall core strength. Strengthening these muscles can reduce some of the stress on your spine and reduce some of your symptoms.
But in more advanced cases of spinal stenosis, you may need surgery to create sufficient space in your spine. A board-certified orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Ngu can perform minimally invasive decompression procedures to remove thickened tissue that’s bulging into your spinal canal space.
He also offers other surgical procedures such as laminectomy, laminotomy, and laminoplasty to remove part of your lamina (the back part of a vertebra) to open up space in your spinal column.
Can I prevent spinal stenosis?
You may be genetically predisposed to spinal stenosis, and there’s not much you can do about that. But you can take care of your spine and overall health to limit the effect spinal stenosis has on your life. For example, getting regular exercise and maintaining proper posture helps to reduce stress on your spine, which can accelerate the wear-and-tear of osteoarthritis and your risk of herniated discs.
If you have persistent back pain, especially if you also have numbness or weakness in your arms or legs, contact us at Premier Spine Institute today by calling or requesting an appointment online.