The spinal column has open spaces that create passageways for the spinal cord and the spinal nerves. However, a serious condition occurs when the spinal column narrows thus putting pressure on the spinal column and nerves. This painful compression of the nerves is known as spinal stenosis.
The pressure that occurs can cause pain, weakness and numbness, and is most common in the cervical and lumbar regions of the spine since the spinal column can narrow at any point from the head to the tailbone, including the center of the spine.
The cause of spinal stenosis is commonly caused by excess growth of the bone around the spinal nerves which is the result of osteoarthritis. It can also result from a dislocation or a fracture of the vertebral bone, or by soft tissue intruding into the spine’s open spaces. Other culprits are herniated discs, tumors, and thickened spinal ligaments which press against the spinal nerves.
Symptoms vary depending on the location and severity. Pain can radiate down the back, arms, and legs, indicating that there is a problem. The development of spinal stenosis can affect a person’s involuntary and voluntary functions, such as breathing, walking, and even bladder and bowel control.
Treatment options may include anti-inflammatory pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and aspirin, muscle relaxants, or other pain relief medications. Physical therapy may also be recommended as stretching and adjusting posture may alleviate some pain and help patients get relief from the discomfort associated with spinal stenosis. However, if these methods are not helping relieve your pain, medical procedures are available from your physician, such as:
- Steroid injections
- Anesthetic nerve blocks
- Vertiflex implant
Surgical options can include decompression surgery (laminectomy) or laminoplasty. These procedures can be helpful for some people with severe pain. Both create more space between the bones which helps reduce inflammation and pain. There are other surgical interventions which may be less aggressive, but not all patients are good candidates.
If you believe you may have spinal stenosis now and are experiencing pain, you should see your physician and get help. In the meantime, you can apply ice the area to reduce inflammation or heat to soothe stiff joints and relax muscles
Valley Pain Consultant physicians have received extensive training in Pain Management, and stay current with new and up to date procedures throughout the year. To schedule an appointment, please call (480) 467-2273 or complete the contact form.