Your vertebrae offer support and stability to your upper body. This enables you to twist and turn. The spinal nerves run through your vertebrae and conduct signals originating from the brain to the rest of your body. The surrounding tissues and bones protect the nerves. If there is damage in any way, then your mobility functions, sensation, and balance become affected. Arlington spine stenosis specialists explain that spinal stenosis is where your spinal column starts compressing your spinal cord. The process is slow and the narrowing has no symptoms. However, too much narrowing causes problems as the nerves are compressed.
Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis
The following symptoms can progress over time even as your nerves get compressed further. You can experience;
- Lower back pain
- Arm or leg weakness
- Balance problems
- Numbness in your buttocks and legs
- Sitting helps relieve the symptoms, but they reappear when you stand or walk for long periods.
Causes of Spinal Stenosis
Aging is the most common cause. As you age, there is a degenerative process happening throughout your body. The tissues in your spine start to thicken and your bones get bigger, compressing your nerves. Also, conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can contribute to this condition. The inflammation exerts pressure on the spinal cord. Other conditions that can cause spinal stenosis include:
- Spine defects at birth
- Spinal curvature
- Bone tumors
- Natural narrowing of spinal cord
- Paget’s disease of the bone causing abnormal bone regrowth and destruction
The doctor will examine your medical history and do a physical exam as he/she observes your movements. The doctor orders test to confirm suspected diagnosis like;
- X-ray, MRI, and CT scans to look at your spine images
- Bone scan to see if there is damage or growth in your spine
- Electromyogram to check the spinal nerves if they are healthy
There are various treatment options that you can consider to overcome your condition. The goal is to help you get better. The treatments include:
This involves anti-inflammatory drugs to help with your pain. The drugs reduce swelling in the spinal column. You can get cortisone injections to help. The doctor also prescribes pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen to ease your discomfort temporarily. Antidepressants like amitriptyline ease chronic pain.
Anti-seizure drugs like Neurontin or Lyrica reduce pain due to damaged nerves. Also, the doctor can prescribe opioids like oxycodone, hydrocodone as short-term pain relievers. The drugs should be taken by the direction of a prescription to avoid any long-term side effects like increased tolerance or addiction.
Most people with spinal stenosis are less active as they try to limit pain. This often leads to muscle weakness, resulting in more pain. The physical therapist teaches you exercises that help improve your balance, maintain your stability and flexibility, and build your muscle endurance and strength.
Surgery is only recommended if you experience severe pain or you experience neurological loss. Surgery relieves pressure in the spinal column permanently. The various surgical options include laminectomy, foraminotomy, and spinal fusion.
As much as spinal stenosis is a preventable condition, there are many ways to deal with the associated symptoms. In case simple treatments don’t relieve the symptoms, consult your doctor for more advanced options.