The lumbar spine is the frame that structurally holds the human body upright. When an area of the spine narrows, pressure on the spine increases and can cause it to compress, hitting nerves. When this happens, it can cause pain and numbness in numerous areas of the body. This condition is called spinal stenosis. It is most commonly found in people aged fifty and above due to changes in the spine that occur as during aging. It is important to know and understand spinal stenosis symptoms as the condition may occur either in the lower back or neck, and knowing where to look for a problem will help in solving it.
Not all forms of spinal stenosis produce symptoms. There must be compression in an area of the spine for an affected person to manifest signs of the condition. Because of the connection of nerves between the lower spine and the legs, leg pain or cramping is the most common symptom reported by those suffering from spinal stenosis occurring in the lower back. Standing for long periods of time or walking may cause symptoms to worsen.
Neck and shoulder pain are the most common symptoms reported by those with spinal stenosis in the neck. Pain in these areas, however, may also be a sign of other problems if they occur without other symptoms. Numbness and weakness in the legs, feet, arms, or hands are the significant signs of spinal stenosis in the neck. Sufferers may become uncoordinated, finding that they frequently drop items or have a tendency to fall. Severe cases of spinal stenosis cause patients to lose control of their bladders and bowel movements, leading to inconsistent excretion patterns.
Doctors should be contacted when multiple spinal stensosis symptoms develop or when feelings of numbness occur. They may have trouble differentiating the condition with other age-related conditions due to the similarities of the symptoms. Imaging tests help to discover the true cause of the symptoms. A spinal X-ray helps to rule out other conditions that may be causing the symptoms but will not itself confirm spinal stensosis. Most often, an MRI is the imaging test of choice in detecting and diagnosing spinal stenosis since it is capable of showing pressure on the spine. A CT scan is also an option which doctors may choose to uncover any problems as it is capable of confirming spinal stenosis and ruling out other conditions.
When spinal stensosis is diagnosed, doctors may choose among different treatments depending on the location and severity of the compression. If the compression is mild and pain is manifested, the doctor may give prescription medications to try to control the pain. Physical therapy may be needed in order to improve spinal flexibility and stability and build strength and endurance. These measures help to alleviate but not eliminate the symptoms associated with the conditions.
For severe compressions caused by spinal stenosis, the doctor will recommend surgery if the symptoms are debilitating and previous treatments have not helped. During surgery, a piece of the spine may be removed to relieve pressure on the nerves. Fusion of several vertebrae may be done to maintain the strength of the spine.
Spinal stenosis can vary from asymptomatic to severely debilitating. Once symptoms develop, it is best to consult a doctor since they worsen over time. With help from a doctor, spinal stenosis symptoms can either be controlled or completely eliminated.