The spine is one of the most important parts of the human body, and its bones and connective tissues form a column that protects the spinal cord and associated nerves. When this column narrows because of arthritis, spondylosis or spondylolisthesis, it causes a condition called spinal stenosis that can affect the neck and lower back. Learn more about this condition with insights from Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics in New Jersey.
Understanding Spinal Stenosis
While the spinal column offers plenty of space for our spinal cords and nerves, the common effects of aging and several conditions may cause this space to narrow due to deformities or the overgrowth of joints, bones, bone spurs, and ligaments. This narrowing is called spinal stenosis and can put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, impeding communication with the brain. The most common causes of spinal stenosis include:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Herniated discs
- Thickened spinal ligaments
- Traumatic injuries
- Congenital defects
- And more
Spinal stenosis is more common in older adults, and the risk for developing this condition increases as we age.
What Are the Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis symptoms are often minor. They vary by the location of the narrowing of the spinal column and may include:
- Neck (cervical) pain that radiates into the arm(s)
- Lower back/buttock (lumbar) pain that radiates into the leg(s)
- Numbness and tingling in the arm, hand, or fingers or the legs and feet
- Loss of balance and/or dexterity
- Reduced function and mobility
- Pain relief by leaning forward
- Bladder and bowel control problems
Severe discomfort and weakness, incontinence, and loss of mobility should be addressed by a neurosurgeon immediately. At the same time, even minor symptoms require evaluation before your condition worsens.
How Is Spinal Stenosis Diagnosed?
Like many conditions of the spine, spinal stenosis cannot be diagnosed via an X-Ray. At Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics, our team spends time listening to patients describe their symptoms and discomfort. We also perform comprehensive physical and neurological exams that may include range of motion tests, palpation, and neurological assessments. With all of this information and the correct diagnostic imaging, we can begin to identify the source of your symptoms and their cause.
This thorough approach to diagnosis is especially important when treating conditions of the spine, which often present similar symptoms. By taking the time needed to understand the root of your symptoms, our award-winning team can provide a more accurate diagnosis and suggest the best treatment plan.
How Do We Treat Spinal Stenosis?
In many cases, only non-invasive treatments are required to provide relief from spinal stenosis. Few patients need surgery, and it’s often possible to reverse the narrowing of the spinal column and reduce neural compression through physical therapy, posture training, and skeletal stabilization. Patients are often advised to use over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers to manage discomfort, and other medications may help minimize pain in more serious cases. Your physician may also suggest epidural injections, which precisely administer corticosteroids to irritated nerve roots, eliminating inflammation and pain.
Surgical treatment is rarely required. When it is, a decompression or laminectomy may be performed to remove excess bone and ligament growth and create more space within the spinal column. When a substantial amount of tissue must be removed, a fusion procedure allows a surgeon to install metal screws and rods to stabilize the spine as well.
Learn More about Spinal Stenosis
If you’re experiencing the symptoms of spinal stenosis, don’t delay treatment. Schedule a consultation with Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics today to learn more about how our multidisciplinary team treats spinal stenosis and helps patients throughout New Jersey achieve a higher quality of life. To learn more, contact us today.