What You Should Know About the Causes and Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a common cause of lower back and leg pain. It occurs when the spaces in your spine become narrow, placing pressure on the spinal cord and nerves that run along your spine and causing symptoms such as pain, tingling, and numbness.

Left untreated, symptoms tend to get worse over time, leading to weakness and balance problems. Yogan Patel, M.D., and her team of pain specialists can help you, even before you experience pain. If you’ve been diagnosed with spinal stenosis diagnosis or have symptoms, here’s what you should know.

Arthritis is the primary cause of spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis results when something occurs that narrows the open space in your spine. Arthritis is the most common cause of this condition, and spinal stenosis is most often diagnosed in adults over age 50. As you age, wear and tear from osteoarthritis can cause your spine to undergo changes that lead to compression of the spinal canal.

Arthritis can cause the soft discs of your spine to dry out and lose strength. When this happens, the space that the nerves exit through in your spine become narrow and weight is transferred to the facet joints. Your body may respond by growing new bone, but this bone overgrowth may cause the space the nerves travel through to become even smaller.

Other causes of spinal stenosis

Ligament thickening

Ligaments are tough, cord-like structures that connect the bones of your spine. Over time, they can increase in size, becoming thick and stiff and reducing the available space for your nerves. The ligaments also may bulge into the spinal canal. In either situation, the nerves become compressed, causing symptoms of spinal stenosis.

Herniated discs

Discs act as shock absorbers in between the bones of your spine. Also known as a slipped disc, a herniated disc occurs when the soft material inside the disc bulges out through its tough exterior. Once this occurs, it can press on and irritate your spinal nerves.

Symptoms of spinal stenosis

Not everyone with spinal stenosis has symptoms, and those who do may not experience the same symptoms as someone else with the condition. If you have spinal stenosis, you may experience:

These symptoms are the result of pressure on your nerves and spinal cord. You may experience sensations described as burning that start from your buttocks and radiate down your legs.

If you have spinal stenosis symptoms, it’s important to visit a specialist for an evaluation and proper diagnosis. Other conditions can cause similar symptoms.

Quick facts

Treatment

The treatment you choose depends on how severely spinal stenosis impacts your quality of life. Medications are available, and this may be all you require for effective relief. Physical therapy and spinal decompression also may help relieve symptoms.

When more conservative options fail to control your symptoms, your provider may recommend steroids or local anesthetics injected at the problem site. Surgery to reduce pressure on the nerves is an option for some patients.

The board-certified pain management physicians and specialists at Delmarva Pain Institute have extensive experience treating spinal stenosis. At their Newark, Delaware location, they treat a wide range of conditions and injuries. Call the office to schedule an appointment, or request one online using our convenient web form.

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