Spinal stenosis is a problem that most often occurs due to wear-and-tear on the spine, making it more common among older people. And it’s true that with the aging of the Canadian population, stenosis is becoming more common. However, age is not the only variable—though some people are genetically more susceptible to developing stenosis, there are many factors that can increase your risk of spinal stenosis. There is no a way to completely prevent the disease, but there are measures you can take that can help you potentially avoid complications.
What is Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal. When there is not enough room to comfortably accommodate the spinal cord, it can lead to pain not only at the site but also in the areas of the body that are served by the adjacent nerves. Sometimes people will modify the term stenosis with the area of the back being affected (e.g., lumbar stenosis), but it is all the same disease. Though stenosis can be the result of injury or genetic predisposition (it’s possible to be born with stenosis), it often occurs because discs in the spine degenerate—rupture, tear, or slip—and begin to take up space normally reserved for your spinal cord.
What are the Symptoms of Stenosis?
Unless stenosis is the result of an acute injury, it can be difficult to note at first. The first signs of the disease are pain or stiffness in the back. This can also manifest as weakness or numbness, in some cases making patients feel they need support when trying to stand or walk. This results in a decreased range of motion and diminished spinal function. However, it can sometimes be difficult for patients to recognize that their mobility and spinal functionality have been impacted because the pain may mask the decrease in functionality. To put it another way, pain may cause you to limit your own activities before you have a chance to notice that you are losing mobility or functionality.
What Should I Do if I Think I Have Stenosis?
Well, of course we’re going to tell you to call the Spine Institute at 888-712-0318 to set up a consultation! A proper diagnosis will let you know the best course of action. In the meantime, however, a smart step to take is to keep a log of your pain symptoms. Smartphone apps are often handy for this, as you’re apt to keep your phone within arm’s reach and you don’t need to remember to keep anything extra (like a notebook) with you. Track when you feel pain, the nature of the pain, how long it lasts, time of day, what you were doing, and any other notable aspects of your symptoms (e.g., if there are other symptoms that accompany your back pain, like tingling in your feet or hands). This kind of log can be extremely helpful to your physician in understanding the nature of your pain.
What Kind of Treatments are Available for Spinal Stenosis?
Your treatment options will depend on the cause and location of your stenosis, as well as your particular circumstances as a patient—after all, every person’s body is different. For some who are diagnosed early, conservative interventions like physical therapy or spinal injections may be enough to help ease the pain. Spinal stenosis that has progressed further may require a more intensive treatment. However, minimally invasive surgical options are available to treat stenosis, offering patients a smaller incision and a faster recovery. If damaged disc tissue or a bone spur are placing pressure on your spinal cord, this may need to be removed. In other cases, decompression can be used to open up the space around the affected nerves.
Don’t let chronic back pain become a fact of life for you! The Spine Institute Northwest has helped Canadian patients from across the provinces find relief from back pain and get back their lives. Call us at 888-712-0318 to learn more.