Spinal Stenosis

If you experience numbness or tingling in the back, arms or legs, see a doctor for proper evaluation. You may be experiencing symptoms of spinal stenosis or the narrowing of the spaces within the spine. Spinal stenosis compresses the spinal cord and its nerve roots, resulting in a range of symptoms that can affect the overall quality of life.

At Nacogdoches Medical Partners in Nacogdoches, TX, our comprehensive orthopedic program is here for you from diagnosis through recovery and rehabilitation. Count on our expertise and technology to treat spinal conditions, spinal cord injuries, back pain and more. We have a dedicated neurological critical care unit, long-term rehabilitation and outpatient follow-up care.

What Is Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is where the spinal canal or spaces inside the spine narrow, creating pressure on the nerve roots, spine and related structures. This causes a pinching of the nerve roots and spinal cord, resulting in cramping, weakness or pain. Spinal stenosis symptoms can be felt in the neck, lower back and legs, shoulder or arms depending on the affected area, namely:

  • Cervical spinal stenosis – affects the vertebrae in the neck.
  • Thoracic spinal stenosis – affects the vertebrae in the upper back.
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis – affects the vertebrae in the lower back.

What Causes Spinal Stenosis?

Typically, a spinal canal provides enough room for the spinal cord and cauda equina (nerve group at the spinal cord’s end). However, age-related conditions, injuries, inherited conditions or other diseases can narrow the spinal canal. Here are some causes of spinal stenosis:

  • Bone spurs – small, abnormal bone growth that can cause pain if it rubs on a nerve.
  • Congenital spinal stenosis – a condition that is present at birth.
  • Fractures due to injury or other medical conditions – may cause some bone fragments to penetrate the spinal canal or dislocate the spine, reducing the space in the canal.
  • Herniated disc – the spinal discs lie between the backbones to act as spacers and shock absorbers in-between the spine. As the disc ages, it can dry out, crack and bulge, placing pressure on the nerve root or spinal cord.
  • Osteoarthritis – a degenerative joint disease that can lead to spinal disc degeneration and bone overgrowth or enlargement, resulting in spinal canal narrowing.
  • Paget’s disease of bone – a chronic condition that causes new bones to form incorrectly and weaker than usual.
  • Posterior longitudinal ligament (PLL) ossification is one of the three ligaments contributing to spinal stability. With ossification, calcium deposits form on the PLL and inside the spinal canal, turning the PLL’s fibrous tissue into the bone that may press on the nerves in the canal.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – a chronic inflammatory disease that often affects joints. This condition can affect the spine’s facet joints and lead to stenosis.
  • Scoliosis – an abnormal curvature of the spine.
  • Spinal tumors – abnormal soft tissue growths that cause inflammation or tissue growth into the spinal canal.
  • Spondylolisthesis – poor spinal alignment due to a vertebra slipping forward on another vertebra. This condition can put pressure on the nerve roots or spinal cord.

What Are the Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis in the lower back may cause these symptoms:

  • Lower back pain.
  • Numbness, cramping, or tingling in the legs and feet become more pronounced when walking or standing.
  • Burning pain that radiates down the buttocks and into the legs.
  • Lower-limb pain that worsens with walking or standing but relieves a bit when leaning forward.
  • Weakness in the lower limbs.

On the other hand, you may feel the following symptoms with cervical spinal stenosis:

  • Neck pain.
  • Weakness in the upper limbs.
  • Tingling or numbness that radiates down the arms into the hands.

Severe spinal stenosis may affect a person’s bowel, bladder or sexual function.

How Does a Doctor Diagnose Spinal Stenosis?

See a doctor if you experience any of the symptoms above for a proper diagnosis. Your doctor will ask about your medical and family history. You will be asked to pinpoint where you feel pain and whether it radiates anywhere. Describe your symptoms to the doctor and when they started.

Your doctor will perform a physical exam to check your balance, how you walk, limitations to your movement, sensation or reflexes in your limbs and whether you feel symptoms if you bend backward or the pain improves when you lean forward. Your doctor may also recommend imaging tests to help diagnose if you have any bone-related conditions.

These tests may include the following:

  • X-rays
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan

How To Treat Spinal Stenosis?

Your doctor will discuss your treatment options if you are diagnosed with spinal stenosis. Nonsurgical treatments will be recommended first to manage your symptoms, such as:

  • Physical therapy may be recommended to help stabilize the spine through building endurance and strengthening back and abdominal muscles.
  • Braces can help provide some back support.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications to help relieve pain and inflammation.
  • Over-the-counter oral or topical pain relievers.
  • Prescription pain relievers for acute or severe pain.
  • Numbing injections for relieving radiating pain due to nerve compression.

Surgery may be recommended if nonsurgical options do not improve your symptoms. Your doctor may recommend surgery right away if your symptoms impair your bowel or bladder function, interfere with your walking or if you experience other neurological effects of your condition. However, not all patients will qualify for surgery, as doctors will have to review the patient’s overall health and the risks and possible benefits of the surgery to the patient.

What Is Spinal Stenosis Surgery?

Surgical options aim to remove areas of the spine that cause pressure to relieve pressure. However, if nerves were already severely damaged before surgery, the patient may still experience a bit of numbness, pain or no improvement at all. Also, the bone’s degenerative process may continue.

Possible spinal stenosis surgery options include:

  • Laminectomy – aims to remove pressure on the nerves and open up the spinal column by removing bone spurs and the bone walls of the vertebrae.
  • Discectomy – removal of part of a herniated spinal disc.
  • Facetectomy – removal of part of or the entire facet joint.
  • Spinal fusion – a procedure to join two or more spinal vertebrae that have slipped from a normal position. The surgeon may remove the disc between the target vertebrae and secure the bones using metal devices or bone grafts.
  • Minimally invasive surgery for spinal stenosis – a type of surgery that uses smaller incisions than traditional surgery. This procedure may cause less scarring and damage to nearby tissues and muscles.

Who Treats Spinal Stenosis?

Doctors who treat spinal stenosis may include:

  • Neurologists
  • Neurosurgeons
  • Orthopedics
  • Pain specialists
  • Physiatrists
  • Physical therapists
  • Primary care or family doctors
  • Rheumatologists

We’ve Got Your Back

You don’t have to bear the burden of pain alone. Our providers are here to listen to you and provide compassionate care. Whether you’re suffering from neck pain, an injury or any other orthopedic condition affecting your spine, Nacogdoches Medical Partners is here to help. We provide spine care services from diagnosis to treatment and rehabilitation. Early treatment may help relieve your symptoms and prevent your condition from worsening. Call 888-421-9679 or click the button below to schedule an appointment.