If you’re over 50, you’re at risk of spinal stenosis — a narrowing of the spinal canal. Though not everyone with spinal stenosis develops problems, or has pain, the condition is progressive and can lead to serious complications.
At Orthopedic & Wellness in Frederick, Waldorf, and Germantown, Maryland, our orthopedic surgeon and pain management physicians, Dr. Ojedapo Ojeyemi and Dr. Matthew Roh, specialize in diagnosing and treating spinal stenosis.
Because of the progressive nature of this spine condition, it’s important to learn about spinal stenosis and the potential complications that can occur.
About spinal stenosis
Spinal stenosis means you have a small spinal canal — the open space in the center of your spinal bones surrounding your spinal cord. Some people are born with less space in the canal, but the narrowing most often happens with age from degenerative changes to the spine that affect spacing and alignment, such as degenerative disc disease.
When there’s less space in the spinal canal, the structures of your spine may irritate the spinal cord or the spinal nerves, causing various types of pain. Spinal stenosis can affect any part of the spine, but most people have narrowing in the neck or lower back.
Signs and symptoms of spinal stenosis
Spinal stenosis symptoms vary and depend on the location of the narrowing and the underlying cause. But the condition is progressive, and when symptoms start, they tend to intensify. In the early stages, you may not have any pain or only dull, achy neck pain or back pain.
As the narrowing worsens, you may experience pain that radiates into your arms or legs, numbness or tingling sensations, or weakness in your legs. In the lower back, your spinal stenosis may lead to sciatica, a nerve pain condition that causes electric shock-like sensations that shoot down the back of the leg.
Complications from spinal stenosis
The pain that comes with spinal stenosis is a serious complication that can have a major impact on quality of life. But this spine condition also may lead to other problems, such as muscle weakness that affects balance and walking.
Other complications from spinal stenosis include:
- Decrease in hand function
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Sexual dysfunction
- Partial leg paralysis
These complications result from nerve compression related to the narrowing in the spine. If you have ongoing neck or back pain or any of the complications noted above, seek professional medical care for treatment. Early intervention may slow down the progression of your symptoms.
Getting help for spinal stenosis
Treatment for spinal stenosis depends on where you’re experiencing narrowing, the severity of symptoms, and complications. However, because of the complex nature of the spine, we take a conservative approach whenever possible.
Treatment may include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Physical therapy
- Heat and ice therapy
- Spinal injections
But when absolutely necessary, especially if you have serious complications like loss of bowel or bladder control, Dr. Ojeyemi may recommend spine surgery for your stenosis, focusing on widening the space in the canal to alleviate the narrowing that’s causing your symptoms.
Spinal stenosis tends to worsen over time, but you can take steps now that may prevent or delay serious complications. We can provide the treatments and guidance you need to manage your spine condition. Call the office nearest you today, or click the Book online button to schedule a consultation.