Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces within your spine, which can put pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine. Spinal stenosis occurs most often in the lower back and the neck.
Some people with spinal stenosis may not have symptoms. Others may experience pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness. Symptoms can worsen over time.
At times spinal stenosis can be caused by wear-and-tear changes in the spine related to osteoarthritis.
Types of spinal stenosis
- Cervical stenosis. In this condition, the narrowing occurs in the part of the spine in your neck.
- Lumbar stenosis. In this condition, the narrowing occurs in the part of the spine in your lower back. It’s the most common form of spinal stenosis.
Symptoms of spinal stenosis
For cervical stenosis, symptoms include:
- Numbness or tingling in a hand, arm, foot or leg
- Weakness in a hand, arm, foot or leg
- Problems with walking and balance
- Neck pain
- In severe cases, bowel or bladder dysfunction (urinary urgency and incontinence)
For lumbar stenosis, symptoms include:
- Numbness or tingling in a foot or leg
- Weakness in a foot or leg
- Pain or cramping in one or both legs when you stand for long periods or when you walk, which usually eases when you bend forward or sit
- Back pain
Treatment for spinal stenosis
Treatment for spinal stenosis depends on the location of the stenosis and the severity of your signs and symptoms.
Talk to your doctor about the treatment that’s best for your situation. If your symptoms are mild or you aren’t experiencing any, your doctor may monitor your condition with regular follow-up appointments. He or she may offer some self-care tips that you can do at home. If these don’t help, he or she may recommend medications or physical therapy.
Surgery is often recommended if other treatments haven’t helped or if you’re disabled by your symptoms. The goals of surgery include relieving the pressure on your spinal cord or nerve roots by creating more space within the spinal canal. Surgery to decompress the area of stenosis is the most definitive way to try to resolve symptoms of spinal stenosis.
Examples of surgical procedures to treat spinal stenosis include laminectomy, laminotomy, laminoplasty, minimally invasive surgery.
- Massage therapy
- Chiropractic treatment