Back pain is no fun; if you experience this uncomfortable condition, you should know you’re not alone. More than 80% of American adults experience back pain at least once in their life.
If your back or neck pain is so intense that you can no longer enjoy your favorite activities, you might have spinal stenosis. Fortunately, our board-certified providers have years of experience diagnosing and treating spinal stenosis at Alate Health in Houston, Texas.
We’ve put together this guide to explain spinal stenosis and what may have caused it, so take a moment to learn more.
What is spinal stenosis?
To understand what spinal stenosis is, it’s important to understand the anatomy of your back. Your lumbar spine, or lower back, has five large vertebrae. The vertebrae have two facet joints and a large, bony disc, which help you move and protect your spinal cord.
The spinal cord lies between the vertebrae like a canal, and the canal can narrow as you age. Other triggers like trauma can also cause the canal to narrow.
A narrowing canal means less space for the spinal cord, putting additional pressure on the nerves and spinal cord. This condition is called spinal stenosis.
Spinal stenosis might not cause noticeable symptoms early on, but this degenerative condition causes symptoms to worsen over time. Symptoms include:
- Trouble with balance
- Lower back pain
- Numbness in buttocks or leg
- Sciatica (shooting pains down buttocks and legs)
- Decreased mobility
- Tingling or numbness in one leg
- Pain or cramping after standing or walking
- Weakness in your foot or leg
- Pain relief when leaning forward or sitting
Spinal stenosis may also cause paralysis or incontinence in the most severe cases.
What causes spinal stenosis?
Most cases of spinal stenosis occur after the age of 60. Because your spinal canal narrows, aging is the most common factor. But it’s not the only reason—here are some of the top causes of spinal stenosis.
Having a herniated disc
A spinal disc with a soft, gel-like center and rubbery exterior is between each vertebra. This spinal disc cushions the space and protects the spinal cord. Over time, the discs can degenerate and become more likely to rupture and tear.
When this happens, the disc becomes a herniated disc. Some gel-like center pushes through the exterior and into the spinal canal. This puts pressure on the spinal cord or nerves and narrows the canal.
Developing lumbar arthritis
Your joints wear over time, and by age 50, most adults have some level of spinal degeneration. As you age, your risk of developing arthritis increases, too. This condition involves the wear and tear of cartilage, bone spurs, and inflammation in your body.
Lumbar arthritis is when arthritis occurs in your lower back. If you develop this condition, the bone spurs can accelerate spinal stenosis if they invade your spinal canal.
Experiencing lumbar spondylolisthesis
When one vertebra slips onto the vertebra below it, it causes spondylolisthesis. This narrows the spine and can result in spinal stenosis.
Previous surgery or spinal injury
If you’ve had a spinal injury in the past or a prior spinal surgery, your risk of developing spinal stenosis is higher. This is because bone material from the injury or leftover scar tissue might enter the spinal canal. This can cause it to narrow and lead to spinal stenosis.
How is spinal stenosis treated?
At Alate Health, your provider works with you to develop a customized treatment plan targeted to alleviate your pain and treat your unique spinal stenosis condition.
Our providers usually start treatment with more conservative methods to reduce and manage your pain, like physical therapy and over-the-counter pain medications, and move to more involved methods if needed. Your treatments may include:
- Epidural steroid injections: Steroids are carefully injected into the epidural space, the area in your lower back that has many spinal nerves and bones, to provide relief
- Selective nerve root block: Similar to an epidural injection, but the injection goes where the nerve exits the spine
- Vertebroplasty/kyphoplasty: The use of cement to fix fractured bones that may be narrowing the spinal canal and maintains the height of the vertebrae
If you’re ready to learn more about spinal stenosis treatments, we’re here to help. Schedule an appointment online or over the phone today at Alate Health in Houston, Texas.