What Is Spinal Stenosis?

misc image

Spinal stenosis is a degenerative condition that affects many people as they grow older. It makes your spinal canal narrower, causing symptoms like pain, tingling, and numbness. Learn why it happens and how to identify the symptoms.

As many as 500,000 Americans are living with spinal stenosis. It’s a degenerative condition that narrows your spinal canal, puts pressure on your spinal cord, and causes pain and numbness.

Your spinal cord is a thick bundle of nerves that runs down your back, inside your vertebral bones. A healthy spine gives the spinal cord plenty of space, but age-related wear and tear can make that space shrink over time.

A narrow spinal canal compresses your spinal cord, often leading to pain or numbness in parts of your body. When it’s left untreated, spinal stenosis can get worse. Maher Ibrahim, MD, and our team at Interventional Pain Management Associates offer innovative treatments to relieve pain and restore wellness.

Why spinal stenosis develops

Your spine supports your entire upper body as you move through life. It’s designed to be strong and flexible, but wear and tear can cause damage as you age. In fact, about 5 in every 1000 people over age 50 have some degree of spinal stenosis.

Osteoarthritis is the leading cause of spinal stenosis. It’s a degenerative condition that damages joints, and it can cause inflammation in your spinal canal that makes it narrow. 

Other risk factors for spinal stenosis include:

  • Bone spurs
  • Herniated discs
  • Spinal injuries
  • Spinal tumors
  • Scoliosis
  • Family history of spinal stenosis

Once your spinal canal starts to narrow, the pressure on your spinal cord increases. When your spinal cord gets pinched, you may feel pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness. These symptoms may develop in your back, arms, or legs, depending on which nerves are affected.

Identifying the signs of spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis can develop anywhere along your spine, but it’s most common in two places: the neck and lower back. Cervical stenosis occurs in the neck, and lumbar stenosis occurs in the lower back.

Cervical spinal stenosis

Your neck has seven vertebrae from your shoulders to the base of your skull. Cervical stenosis develops when your spinal canal gets too narrow in any of these vertebrae.

Common symptoms of cervical stenosis include:

  • Neck pain
  • Tingling, numbness, or weakness in your arms or hands
  • Difficulty walking
  • Difficulty maintaining balance
  • Bladder or bowel dysfunction (in severe cases)

You may notice symptoms in one arm or both. In some cases, cervical stenosis can cause tingling or weakness in legs or feet as well.

Lumbar spinal stenosis

Your lumbar spine is made up of five large vertebral bones. It bears most of your body weight when you sit, stand, and carry things, and lumbar stenosis is the most common type of spinal stenosis.

Common symptoms of lumbar stenosis include:

  • Lower back pain
  • Tingling, numbness, or weakness in your legs or feet
  • Pain or cramping in the legs after physical activity

Many people with spinal stenosis experience pain and other symptoms, but it’s possible to have spinal stenosis without any noticeable symptoms. 

If you have pain, numbness, or risk factors for spinal stenosis, schedule an evaluation with Dr. Ibrahim and our team. We specialize in comprehensive spine assessments to identify what’s causing your symptoms, and we can recommend a treatment plan to help you feel better.

There are lots of different treatments available for spinal stenosis, from lifestyle changes and physical therapy to medication and spinal decompression. We help you find a combination of methods to relieve your symptoms.

Call our office in Hamilton, New Jersey, at 609-757-9860 or send us a message online to get started.