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8 Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis

Up to 11% of Americans have spinal stenosis. It’s a common degenerative spinal condition, and it can cause significant pain and restricted mobility in your lower back or your neck.

Spinal stenosis can develop in your lower back (lumbar spine) or your neck (cervical spine), and it can happen to anyone. But since it’s often caused by bone spurs and osteoarthritis, it’s most common in people over the age of 50.

Both lumbar spinal stenosis and cervical spinal stenosis types share some similar symptoms, but they can also affect you in different ways. No matter where your spinal pain originates, George Kakoulides, MD, and our surgical team specialize in identifying and treating it.

Take the time to learn more about the symptoms of spinal stenosis and what to do if you suspect you have it.

Signs of spinal stenosis

Your spinal canal is a hollow space formed by your vertebrae and it protects your spinal cord. Spinal stenosis happens when that space narrows and starts compressing the nerves in your spinal cord.

Spinal stenosis often gets worse over time. You might not notice symptoms when your spinal canal first starts to get narrower, but pain and other issues may develop as stenosis progresses. 

A few possible symptoms of cervical and lumbar spinal stenosis include:

1. Neck pain

The most obvious symptom of cervical spinal stenosis is neck pain. Pain may come and go, range in severity, or be accompanied by neck stiffness or limited range of motion.

2. Back pain

Back pain is another common symptom of spinal stenosis. It could be caused by stenosis anywhere along your spine, from your neck to your lower back. Pain may feel like a dull ache, general tenderness, or sharp pangs of electrical pain.

3. Numbness or tingling

Numbness, tingling, and burning sensations are all signs of nerve pain. Sometimes described as “pins and needles,” these sensations can be caused by spinal stenosis and be felt in your arms, hands, buttocks, legs, or feet.

4. Weakness in arms or legs

Spinal stenosis can also make your arms or legs feel unusually weak or heavy. If your arms and hands are affected, you might find yourself struggling to button your shirt. If you have weakness in your legs or feet, you might notice that you trip or stumble more often.

5. Sciatica

Your sciatic nerve starts in your lower back and travels down through your hips, buttocks, and each leg. Lumbar spinal stenosis can cause sciatica, which is another spinal condition that’s characterized by radiating pain down one leg.

6. Pain that worsens with standing

Spinal stenosis pain often comes and goes, but if you have lumbar spinal stenosis, it might get noticeably worse after you spend a long time on your feet. Walking and standing can increase pain, but sitting or leaning may take pressure off affected nerves and provide some pain relief.

7. Balance problems

Spinal stenosis could affect your sense of balance. You might notice dizziness, lightheadedness, or headaches. This symptom is most commonly associated with cervical spinal stenosis, but it’s possible with spinal stenosis in your mid- or lower back.

8. Loss of bladder or bowel control

In severe cases, spinal stenosis may lead to loss of bladder or bowel control. This could happen if you have cervical spinal stenosis or lumbar spinal stenosis.

Surgical care for spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis is common, but the good news is that you have a lot of treatment options. If you’re diagnosed with spinal stenosis, Dr. Kakoulides often starts by recommending conservative treatment like physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication.

If your condition continues getting worse or you have a severe case of spinal stenosis, he may recommend minimally invasive spine surgery. Spinal decompression (laminectomy) is a surgical procedure to remove a small part of your vertebrae to add space in your spinal canal.

During a laminectomy, Dr. Kakoulides may also remove damaged bone and bone spurs. By creating extra space in your spinal canal, pressure is taken from nerves and symptoms improve. If spinal decompression surgery isn’t a good option for you, Dr. Kakoulides may suggest spinal fusion as an alternative treatment.

If you’re considering spine surgery for spinal stenosis, trust Dr. Kakoulides and our team. Schedule a consultation to learn more about laminectomy and other surgical options. Contact us online or call the office today.

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