Americans are no strangers to back and neck pain — lifetime chances of American adults developing lower back pain alone is a whopping 80%. While there are many roads that lead to problems along your spine, stenosis ranks among the more common.
As spine health experts, the team here at Texas Spine Consultants, including Michael Hennessy, MD, Robert Viere, MD, Andrew Park, MD, Chester Donnally, MD, and Heidi Lee, MD, has extensive experience treating, and resolving, lower back and neck problems.
To help you better determine what may be causing your back and neck issues, we want to highlight one of the more common culprits — spinal stenosis.
Spinal stenosis — a narrow problem
In the simplest of terms, stenosis refers to a narrowing of a passageway, which, in this case, refers to your spinal cord. Spinal stenosis most often strikes those areas of your spine that are the most active, namely your lower back (lumbar spine) and your neck (cervical spine).
Recognizing the signs of spinal stenosis
Since your spinal cord provides the primary passage for your nervous system, when there’s a narrowing in this space, your nerves can become compressed or pinched. Depending on the extent and location of this nerve compression, you can experience symptoms that typically include:
- Loss of strength
Making matters more complicated, if the stenosis affects peripheral nerve roots along your spine, you may experience symptoms that radiate down the length of the nerve and into your extremities, which is a condition called radiculopathy. For example, if you have cervical stenosis, you may experience the symptoms we outline above in one of your arms and hands. If the stenosis develops in your lower back, you may feel the effects down into your leg and foot.
These symptoms may come and go with certain positions and/or activities, but as the stenosis progresses, you may be left with side effects that are ever-present.
In most cases, spinal stenosis is progressive and most people don’t feel any symptoms during the beginning stages. In fact, some people only ever become aware of the problem thanks to advanced imaging for other reasons.
For many, however, the stenosis progresses to a point where it becomes symptomatic and interferes with their ability to move freely.
The causes of spinal stenosis
Now that we better understand what stenosis is and what symptoms this condition causes, let’s take a quick look at how this narrowing occurs. There are several conditions that can lead to spinal stenosis, chief among them:
- Osteoarthritis in your facet joints
- Degenerative disc disease
- A thickening of your ligaments
There are other, less common causes, such as tumors, but the above three are responsible for most cases of spinal stenosis.
Treating spinal stenosis
If we find that spinal stenosis is responsible for your discomfort, we can address the problem in a number of ways, including:
- Pain medications
- Nerve blocks
- Steroid injections
- Physical therapy
- Mobi-C® — an artificial cervical disc
- XLIF® lateral lumbar interbody fusion — we remove a disc
- Intracept® procedure — we target the basivertebral nerve to relieve lower back pain
As you can see by this list, our solutions range from conservative to more aggressive. Choosing the one that’s right for you depends on the extent of your stenosis and how you respond to treatment.
If you’d like to learn more about your options for spinal stenosis, please contact one of our locations in Plano or Addison, Texas, to set up an appointment.