Recognizing the Signs of Spinal Stenosis

Narrowing of the spinal canal is a common and often debilitating cause of lower back pain. If you’re struggling with back pain, visiting a pain specialist for a thorough evaluation and diagnosis is the first step to getting the relief you need.

At Pain Management Specialists in Rockville and Frederick Maryland, our team of board-certified interventional pain management specialists understand the impact pain has on your daily life. That’s why Stuart Hough, MD, and Ramani Peruvemba, MD, are devoted to using the latest advances in pain management medicine to relieve your pain and restore your quality of life.

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people visit their doctor. Roughly 80% of people will experience back pain at some point in their lives, but when is your back pain a cause for concern and when should you suspect a condition like spinal stenosis? We answer these questions and more in this informative post.

Aging and your back

Your spine gives your body structure and support, enabling you to move and bend. In addition to protecting your spinal cord, your spine keeps your body stable and evenly distributes your body weight.

As you age nearly everyone experiences some degenerative changes to the spine that can cause or contribute to back pain. Drying out of the discs that separate and act as shock absorbers between the bones of your spine is seen in 50% of individuals over 40 and close to 90% of people by the age of 60. 

What is spinal stenosis?

While spinal stenosis isn’t inevitable, the risk increases with age. Spinal stenosis occurs when the hollow space that houses the spinal cord and spinal nerves narrows. Lacking adequate space, the spinal cord or nerves can become pinched or compressed, causing pain and abnormal sensations like numbness and tingling.

Spinal stenosis can happen in any part of the spine but commonly occurs in the lower back (lumbar spine) and neck (cervical spine). 

Signs and symptoms of lumbar stenosis

If you have symptoms of lumbar stenosis, you’re likely to notice some pain in your lower back. Typically, you may find that leaning forward relieves the pain. You may also have trouble walking distances and may have some numbness or pain in your legs. 

You may also experience weakness in your back or legs. It’s best to see a specialist if you’re having any sort of persistent back or neck pain. Symptoms of back conditions can overlap. A comprehensive evaluation is the only way to know for sure the cause of your back pain.

What causes spinal stenosis?

Age-related changes to the spine such as dehydration of spinal discs, changes within the stabilizing joints between and behind vertebrae, and thickening of spinal ligaments are some of the most common causes of spinal stenosis. Lifestyle factors that place added stress on the body, such as poor posture and being overweight can hasten the aging process of your spine.

Getting help for back pain

Spinal stenosis is treatable. The goal is to ease pressure on the spinal nerves and spinal cord. We start with conservative treatments such as physical therapy, lifestyle changes, pain medication, and epidural injections. 

If pain persists, minimally invasive lumbar decompression (MILD) may be an option for you. MILD involves making a small incision and removing structures that are compressing the spinal canal. 

We’ve got your back when it comes to back pain. Give us a call to schedule a consultation to discuss your back pain with Dr. Hough or Dr. Peruvemba, or send your request online today. 

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