As many as a half million Americans suffer from the painful symptoms of spinal stenosis, a “narrowing” of the spinal canal that happens more often as we get older. Although it’s common, spinal stenosis is just one possible cause of chronic back pain or neck pain, which makes accurate diagnosis especially important.
Jonathan Gentile, MD, has extensive experience in both diagnosing and treating spinal stenosis, using a patient-centered approach designed for optimal relief. Learning to recognize the symptoms of spinal stenosis can help Dr. Gentile diagnose the condition earlier. Here’s what to look for.
Spinal stenosis: The basics
Your spine bones (vertebrae) have hollow openings that “line up” to create a channel that runs from the base of your spine all the way down to your lower back. This channel or canal contains all the major nerves as they travel from your brain to every other part of your body.
Normally, the nerves have ample room inside the canal and in between the spine joints (facet joints) where they exit the spine before traveling to other areas of your body. But in spinal stenosis, the canal becomes narrower, pressing in on nerves and causing an array of painful symptoms.
Spinal stenosis is most commonly associated with age-related changes in your spine, including arthritis and bone spur development related to wear-and-tear on the spine and its joints. Other possible causes include:
- Thickened spinal ligaments
- Spine fractures, including fractures from osteoporosis
- Other traumatic injury
- Spine tumors or growths
- Bone or metabolic diseases
- Vertebral “slippage” (a condition called spondylolisthesis)
Some genetic or inherited conditions also can increase your risk of developing spinal stenosis.
Recognizing the symptoms of spinal stenosis
The most common symptoms of spinal stenosis is back or neck pain that can range from dull aching to sharp or stinging. Because nerves travel throughout your body, you can have symptoms anywhere along the nerve path. In addition to pain, those symptoms can include:
- Tingling or numbness, especially in your limbs
- Burning sensations
- Loss of coordination or muscle strength
With severe stenosis and nerve compression, you may have problems controlling your bladder or bowels or performing simple movements, like walking.
Over time, the nerve and muscle damage can become permanent. That’s why having your back or neck pain evaluated as soon as possible is so important, especially if your pain is chronic, recurring, or worsening.
Finding relief for your painful symptoms
Spinal stenosis may be more common with age, but that doesn’t mean you have to “learn” to live with it. In fact, ignoring symptoms — even mild ones — could leave you with serious problems, including permanent disability and lifelong pain.
Dr. Gentile is skilled in state-of-the-art techniques designed to relieve stenosis-related symptoms and improve your quality of life. To learn more about spinal stenosis treatment at our practices in Carmel, Kokomo, and Indianapolis, Indiana, book an appointment online or over the phone with Dr. Gentile today.