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If you experience chronic neck, leg, or back pain, you may need to be evaluated for spinal stenosis, which can include lumbar spinal stenosis and cervical spinal stenosis. Here’s what you should know about this condition and how the team at Endeavor Health Neurosciences Institute’s Advanced Neurosciences Center can help alleviate spinal stenosis symptoms. 

What is spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is a common condition that occurs when the spinal canal narrows, which can put pressure on your nerves and spinal cord. This narrowing of the spine can be caused by age-related changes in your discs or joints, as well as from certain conditions like arthritis. Spinal stenosis most often affects the neck (cervical) area and lower back (lumbar) region of the spine.

Spinal stenosis is generally seen in adults over 60 and is equally common among men and women. Younger people may be at an elevated risk for spinal stenosis if they have spinal issues such as scoliosis. 

A patient gets support from a doctor

Symptoms of spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis symptoms develop gradually and worsen over time. Symptoms vary based on which part of the spine is affected.

Lumbar spinal stenosis symptoms may include:

  • Pain, weakness, or numbness in the legs
  • Back pain
  • Radiating pain down one or both legs, commonly called sciatica

Cervical spinal stenosis symptoms may include:

  • Neck pain
  • Balance problems
  • Loss of hand function
  • Numbness in the extremities

Diagnosing spinal stenosis

If you think you have spinal stenosis, it is important to talk to a doctor. The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. They may perform a physical exam and could order imaging tests, such as an X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. These will help your doctor confirm a spinal stenosis diagnosis. If you need help with a diagnosis or need a second opinion, the team at the Advanced Neurosciences Center can help.

Causes of spinal stenosis

Many factors can cause the spinal canal to narrow and lead to spinal stenosis.

Naturally, as you age, you can slowly lose structure in your spine. This may occur as ligaments that hold the spine in place thicken. Bones may enlarge, or extra bone, called bone spurs, may form and put pressure on the spinal canal. 

Arthritis is another common cause of spinal stenosis. Two types can affect the spine.

On rare occasions, a tumor can form within or adjacent to the spinal canal, narrowing the space.

Trauma to the spine can cause swelling of tissue or fractures, which can lead to wayward bone fragments lodging in the spinal canal. 

People with certain genetic factors can be at greater risk for spinal stenosis.

Treatment for spinal stenosis

If you have spinal stenosis, your doctor will help you come up with a treatment plan that works best for you based on the severity of your symptoms. At the Advanced Neurosciences Center, our team of specialists and surgeons put you in the driver’s seat of your care. Here are the treatment options and recommendations you might receive from your provider:

Pain medicine can help reduce pain and inflammation.

PT helps build muscle strength and maintain flexibility and balance.

While injections can decrease swelling and pain, they can also weaken surrounding bones and ligaments, so they should not be given frequently.

In some cases, surgery may be recommended to help relieve the pressure on your nerves. There are several procedures available.

  • Laminectomy: During this procedure, a surgeon removes the bone or ligament that is pressuring the nerves.
  • Laminotomy: This surgery involves removing only part of the bone. A hole just big enough to relieve pressure is made in a precise area.
  • Laminoplasty: This surgery is only for cervical spinal stenosis. It involves removing the affected spinal bone to create more space. Metal plates are installed to create a bridge where the bone was removed.

What to do after a spinal stenosis diagnosis

If you are experiencing any symptoms related to spinal stenosis, it’s important to seek medical attention from a qualified specialist right away. At the Advanced Neurosciences Center, we specialize in diagnosing and treating this condition with an individualized approach tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our team of experts will work together to determine if you have spinal stenosis and develop a treatment plan based on your symptoms that’s right for you. 

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