Understanding Spinal Stenosis

Your body undergoes many changes as you get older. Though it’s difficult to miss the visible changes that occur with each passing year, you may not be aware of the degenerative changes happening to your spine until you start to experience neck or back pain. 

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, degenerative changes in the spine are present in up to 95% of people by the time they reach age 50. While spinal stenosis can occur at any age, it’s most often diagnosed in those age 60 and older. 

At Orthopedic & Wellness in Frederick, Waldorf, and Germantown, Maryland, our pain management and orthopedic specialists, Dr. Ojedapo Ojeyemi and Dr. Matthew Roh, want you to know more about spinal stenosis, including how it develops, the types of symptoms you may experience, and your treatment options.

Losing space with spinal stenosis

Your backbone is made up of a series of small bones, called vertebrae, that are stacked one on top of another. These bones are each separated by an intervertebral disc and connected by strong ligaments that keep the bones in their proper position. 

In addition to supporting the weight of your upper body and allowing you to bend and twist, your backbone is designed to protect your spinal cord. An important part of your central nervous system, your spinal cord is responsible for relaying messages between your brain and body through nerve branches that exit the narrow openings in between the vertebrae of your backbone.

Spinal stenosis refers to a narrowing of the space around your spinal cord, which places pressure on the spinal canal and the nerve branches that exit through the spaces in your vertebrae. Though you may be born with a narrow spinal canal, the loss of space most often results from the normal wear-and-tear that occurs with aging.

The degenerative changes that most often lead to spinal stenosis include:

You can develop spinal stenosis in any part of your spine, but it most often occurs in the lumbar (lower back) and cervical (neck) spine.  

Symptoms of spinal stenosis

Not everyone with spinal stenosis experiences symptoms. However, when symptoms do occur, they generally get worse over time. The types of symptoms you experience may depend on the area of your spine affected by the narrowing. 

With cervical spinal stenosis, you might experience:

With lumbar spinal stenosis, you may encounter:

Lumbar spinal stenosis is more common than cervical spinal stenosis and may be the underlying cause of sciatica, which is a common pain condition that develops from compression of your sciatic nerve. 

Relieving your spinal stenosis symptoms

For treatment of your spinal stenosis, our pain management and orthopedic specialists focus on alleviating your pain and keeping you active. We find that many people benefit from nonsurgical treatments, such as anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, and steroid injections. 

However, if your spinal stenosis is severe and makes it difficult for you to manage your daily tasks without pain, we may recommend a decompression laminectomy, a surgical procedure that relieves pressure on your spinal canal and nerves. To provide stability, we may combine your laminectomy with a spinal fusion.

Spinal stenosis is a common and progressive cause of neck and back pain, but we can treat it to help you maintain the best quality of life possible. Schedule a consultation to learn more about our treatment options: Contact us by phone or online today.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Lifestyle Changes That Improve Chronic Pain

Many people with chronic pain experience limitations that affect their quality of life. Though you may feel as though you have no control over your discomfort, making some lifestyle changes can improve your chronic pain.

Common Causes of Chronic Pain and How We Can Help

Millions of people in the United States suffer from pain everyday, many with severe pain. This type of pain affects every aspect of your life. What causes chronic pain, and what can you do to get relief? Click here to find out.

What Are Bone Spurs?

Despite sounding sharp and spiky, bone spurs are smooth, round, bony growths that develop slowly. Most bone spurs go unnoticed and undetected because they cause no problems. But some bone spurs can irritate nerves or tissue, resulting in pain.

The Link Between Healthy Weight Loss and Less Pain

Healthy weight loss offers many benefits, like improving blood pressure and boosting self-confidence. But did you know that losing weight can reduce pain? Click here to learn more about the link between weight loss and less pain.