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Spine/NeckSpinal Stenosis

Spine/NeckSpinal Stenosis

According to The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, 95% of people experience degenerative changes in their spine at the age of 50. These changes often lead to spinal complications, among them lumbar spinal stenosis. 

In this article, you’ll learn about spinal stenosis, what causes lumbar stenosis, common symptoms, and how to get spinal stenosis treatment at Sforzo | Dillingham | Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine.

First off, what is lumbar spinal stenosis?

It is a medical condition that makes the spinal canal (spaces within the spine) narrow. Spinal stenosis is frequent in the neck and lower back, where it causes pressure on the nerves that run from the spinal cord to the muscles. As a result, you may experience pain in your lower back or legs making it challenging to walk longer distances.

What Causes Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

According to The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, some back problems may naturally develop into spinal stenosis. Such complications occur among patients who have a congenital narrowing of the spinal canal, although this is rare. However, spinal stenosis of the lumbar region is most common when degeneration causes narrowing around the nerves. 

An X-ray Image Showing Multilevel Degenerative Changes in the Lumbar Spine (X-rays cannot show stenosis)  

Source: www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/lumbar-spinal-stenosis

Below are some common causes of spinal stenosis of the lumbar region: 

Bone Overgrowth

A bone overgrowth (bone spurs) is a common cause of spinal stenosis of the lumbar region when a bone outgrowth extends into the spinal canal. Arthritis in the spinal joints can cause overgrowth and contribute to the narrowing around the nerves.

Tumor

A tumor that forms in the spinal cord can cause lumbar spinal stenosis, especially when it begins inside the vertebrae or spinal cord membranes. This is a very rare cause of spinal stenosis.  

Herniated Disk

This condition occurs when rubbery discs that act as soft cushions in the vertebrae become degenerative. Thus, cracks may develop in the disks, allowing the soft tissue to escape and build upon your spinal nerves. A herniated disc can compress a spinal nerve and cause acute pain.

Herniated Disks

Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/herniated-disk/symptoms-causes/syc-20354095

Thickening of the Spinal Ligaments

The ligaments running along the spine may grow thick and stiff over time. The thickened ligaments may bulge into the spinal canal, causing the narrowing around the nerves.

What Are the Symptoms of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

At the initial stages, you may sometimes not experience any spinal stenosis symptoms. The symptoms may be gradual and become worse over time. If you suspect spinal stenosis of the lumbar region, be sure to watch for the following signs:

  • Lower back pain may come and go especially when standing and walking
  • Nerve pain that develops on the buttocks and extends to the legs and the feet
  • Numbness and tingling sensations on your feet, legs, and buttocks
  •  Cramping in the buttocks and thighs with standing and walking
  • Severe pain on the legs when you stand for long, walk for longer distances or walk downhill.

How Is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Diagnosed?

At Sforzo l Dillingham l Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine, our doctors can diagnose lumbar spinal stenosis and advice on the best treatment. Our spine surgeon, Philip A. Meinhardt, M.D., will ask you questions and conduct a medical review of your symptoms. During the physical assessment, Dr. Philip A. Meinhardt, M.D. at | Sforzo | Dillingham | Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine will identify any abnormal findings.

Besides physical review, we may conduct the following tests for spinal stenosis:

  • Imaging Test of the nerve structure and spinal canal using MRI or CT scan. An MRI can create a cross-sectional image of your spine using electromagnetic waves. An MRI scan helps detect disk damages, tumors, and pressure on the spinal cord nerves.
  • Lumbar Spine X-ray is used to identify any deformity or potential bone spurs.
  • Computerized tomography will use X-ray images to create a cross-sectional view of your spine to reveal any changes and further assess deformity or fractures.

How Is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Treated?

If you have spinal stenosis, you need not worry because spinal stenosis can be effectively treated. Depending on your condition, treatment may involve the following:

Physical Exercises

These include a set of body exercises to stretch your leg muscles, strengthen your stomach and lower back.

Non-steroid Medications

These include anti-inflammatory medications to help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.  Remedies may also involve anti-inflammatory injections.

Surgery

Spinal stenosis surgery is the last resort used for the treatment of lumbar spinal stenosis. It may involve techniques to remove your bone spurs and widen the gap between spinal canals. We may also fuse your vertebrae to help support your lower back effectively.

What Can I Do to Prevent Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

The key to preventing lumbar spinal stenosis is to keep your spine healthy. Although spinal stenosis of the lumbar region is not entirely preventable, you can reduce your chances of developing this condition by adopting healthy lifestyle habits. 

They include the following:

Maintaining a Good Posture

Maintain a good posture by sleeping on a firm mattress and sitting on a solid chair that helps support your back’s natural curves. Additionally, always maintain the correct position to avoid putting pressure on your spine whenever you lift heavy objects.

Regular Body Exercise

To keep spinal stenosis at bay, maintain a regular schedule for physical aerobic exercises that help stretch your back muscles. These may include swimming, weight training, and everyday walking. Regular bodily exercise can strengthen the muscles on your lower back and enhance your spinal flexibility.

Keeping a Healthy Body Weight

Maintaining a healthy body weight is critical in the prevention of spinal stenosis and related disorders. Excessive weight can exert pressure on your spinal muscles, hence causing the narrowing of your spine canals.

Living With Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Mild back pain may go away on its own, primarily if you use some home-based self-care tips. Be sure to consult Philip A. Meinhardt, M.D., a professional doctor at Sforzo | Dillingham | Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine, and your medical team for advice on living with spinal stenosis.

Below are home-based tips for healthy living when diagnosed with the condition:

  • Take a warm bath or use a heating pad to reduce pain. A heating pad will increase your blood flow and help relax your muscles. It would help if you, however, regulated the heat levels to avoid getting burned.
  • Use an ice pack, a frozen bag, or frozen gel where a heating pad doesn’t yield desirable effects. Applying an ice pack over the affected area for at least 20 minutes reduces inflammation and swelling of the affected spinal nerves.
  • Consult Sforzo | Dillingham | Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine on the best nutritional supplements that can help boost your muscle strength and enhance spinal flexibility

When Should I Call My Healthcare Provider?

If left untreated, spinal stenosis can lead to severe cauda equine syndrome that requires urgent medical attention. Therefore, be sure to call Sforzo | Dillingham | Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine whenever you notice the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty in walking or standing out of a sitting position as a result of severe pain
  • Severe numbness on your inner thighs, between the legs, or at the back of your legs
  • Inability to control your bladder or muscle movement
  • Severe pain when peeing or coughing

Key Points About Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Lumbar spinal stenosis occurs from the narrowing of your spinal canals due to pressure exerted on the spinal cord. The most common causes are spinal stenosis, degenerative, infectious, or neoplastic (abnormal tissue growth).

Talking to Philip A. Meinhardt, M.D., about your situation is an essential step towards finding effective management and treatment. Alternative, minimally invasive, and regenerative treatments can help eliminate the need for specialized surgery to correct lumbar spinal stenosis. Dr. Meinhardt specializes in biological, regenerative therapy for lumbar conditions.

FAQs

Is Spinal Stenosis a Serious Condition?

No. Spinal stenosis is not a severe life-threatening condition as it is manageable using conventional techniques and home-based remedies. 

What Happens If Spinal Stenosis Is Left Untreated?

Untreated spinal stenosis may be dangerous if not handled promptly. If you allow compression of your spinal canals for a long time, it may cause permanent numbness or disability. Therefore, it is advisable to visit Sforzo l Dillingham l Stewart Orthopedics, + Sports Medicine whenever you experience numbness on your legs.

Does Spinal Stenosis Go Away?

According to the University of Washington, Orthopedics department, some patients do not even require spinal stenosis surgery. It is possible to learn to minimize symptoms and it is very common for symptoms to wax and wane. It is, however, advisable to seek medical advice from Dr. Philip Meinhardt if you have signs of stenosis.

Is Spinal Stenosis a Permanent Disability?

No. Spinal stenosis is unlikely a form of permanent disability. While the condition can cause severe pain, it is rare for permanent paralysis. It causes pressure on your spinal cord and the nerves that branch off your spinal cord.

Time to Visit a Doctor?

Do you experience frequent lower back pains and tingling sensations on your legs? The only way to be sure it’s not spinal stenosis of the lumbar region is to get a proper diagnosis. At Sforzo l Dillingham l Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine, we can give you an accurate diagnosis and advise on the best treatment. Contact us to schedule your consultation.

Graci & Dennis McGillicuddy

After tearing my rotator cuff, not only was I experiencing pain but my quality of life was diminished. Playing golf and working out were painful rather than enjoyable. Graci and I sought out fellowship-trained Dr. Christopher Sforzo and the team at Sforzo • Dillingham • Stewart Orthopedics. I was treated non-surgically and am now pain free, mobile and enjoying everything I did before.

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