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Understanding the Different Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis

Understanding the Different Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis

As many as a half million American men and women have spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the space inside your spine. Like some other spine conditions, spinal stenosis becomes more common with age, especially among men and women with osteoarthritis and other age-related joint changes.

Our team at Pacific Sports and Spine in Eugene, Oregon, specializes in spinal stenosis treatment, offering conservative, minimally invasive, and surgical treatments, depending on your individual symptoms, medical history, and treatment goals. 

Here’s how to tell if your back-related symptoms might be the result of spinal stenosis.

Spinal stenosis: The basics

Spinal stenosis typically happens over time as a result of wear-and-tear in the spine. Years of bending, lifting, reaching, and just plain standing, walking, and sitting all take a toll on the spine bones and joints.

Stenosis can be divided into two types depending on the area where narrowing occurs:

Some people have stenosis in both these areas. Stenosis rarely affects the thoracic (central) part of the spine, because this part of the spine is subjected to less movement compared to the neck or lower back.

The spine changes may not cause pain directly, but as the space inside the spine narrows, the nerves contained in the spinal canal become more and more crowded. Eventually, compression on the nerves causes significant back pain, often accompanied by pain that radiates into your legs and arms.

Symptoms of spinal stenosis

Some people with mild spinal stenosis have no symptoms, or they may have very mild symptoms that can be relieved with a little rest or stretching. But for other people, the pain can be debilitating. 

Spinal stenosis symptoms also vary depending on which part of the spine is affected. Overall, symptoms can include:

Some people with spinal stenosis experience severe, chronic pain or bursts of pain that feel like an electrical jolt. Rarely, untreated lumbar stenosis can interfere with walking or cause bowel or urinary incontinence. 

The symptoms you experience depend largely on the nerves that are affected and how much compression is taking place.

Spinal stenosis treatment

Before prescribing treatment, we conduct a thorough exam, including physical assessments of your symptoms, your balance, and your nerve function. We may order diagnostic imaging or nerve conduction tests along with lab work to rule out other possible causes. 

Once we diagnose stenosis, we typically begin treatment with conservative, nonsurgical options, like:

In more severe cases when these conservative approaches don’t help with pain relief, we may recommend surgery to relieve pressure on the affected nerves.

Don’t ignore back pain

Like other spine conditions, spinal stenosis responds best to early treatment. Ignoring your symptoms can allow the condition to develop into a very serious medical emergency and permanent damage to your nerves. 

If you have any symptoms of spinal stenosis, schedule an evaluation today. It’s the key to feeling better and preventing more serious issues. To learn more about spinal stenosis, give us a call at our Eugene, Oregon, office.

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