Your spine is not immune to the effects of aging. For instance, as you get older, you can become vulnerable to spinal stenosis, which happens when the spaces between the spine narrow. Spinal stenosis can affect any part of the spine, but it commonly occurs in the lower back (lumbar canal stenosis) and neck (cervical spine stenosis).
Below are some common symptoms of spinal stenosis to look out for. If you experience any symptoms, get checked by an orthopedic doctor.
Spinal stenosis comes with pain that can range from a dull ache to a sharp burning sensation. With lumbar stenosis, the pain usually starts from the lower back. It radiates down to the buttock, leg, and foot. This condition is known as sciatica.
As spinal stenosis progresses, the pain may intensify when you are on your feet for a long time. However, it eases when you bend forward or sit down.
For cervical stenosis, it’s common to experience neck pain due to a pinched nerve. The painful symptoms usually start gradually and worsen over time.
Numbness and Weakness
Along with pain, patients with spinal stenosis can experience numbness or sensory loss. A spinal nerve under pressure for extended periods can make numbness permanent.
For those with lumbar stenosis, numbness usually occurs in the lower limbs. With cervical stenosis, numbness or tingling occurs in the arms and hands. You might discover that your arm gets tired more quickly or that it has become challenging to do simple tasks involving the hand. Even grasping a pen, brushing your teeth, and buttoning a shirt can become challenging.
Spinal stenosis can sometimes impair your sense of balance and coordination. It may happen when the nerves in charge of balance and movement become compressed. If you become unsteady on your feet or lose balance while walking, you become more vulnerable to accidents and falls.
Balance problems usually do not occur independently but are a sign of a more significant condition. If you’re having trouble with your gait or maintaining balance, it’s best to see an orthopedic specialist right away.
Loss Of Bladder/Bowel Control
In severe cases, spinal stenosis can result in incontinence. Cauda equina syndrome is a severe condition in which the lower back nerves in charge of bladder and bowel function become compressed. This can result in straining to urinate or overflow incontinence.
Cauda equina is a medical emergency. If you experience severe back pain accompanied by bladder, bowel, and sexual dysfunction, seek medical care right away.
Spinal Stenosis Diagnosis and Treatment
Since neck and back pain is relatively common, it can be difficult to diagnose spinal stenosis on your own. Consult an orthopedic specialist for an accurate diagnosis of your condition.
Your doctor will start by asking you about your symptoms. They may perform a physical exam to check which areas in your spine are affected. They will also evaluate your balance, gait, and arm and leg strength.
If needed, your orthopedic specialist will order diagnostic tests to get a closer look at your spine. An MRI scan can provide highly detailed images of your spinal structures down to pinched nerves, discs, and the spinal cord.
Your treatment plan will depend on the severity of your symptoms and the location of the problem. Your doctor may recommend pain medication, heat/cold therapy, physical therapy, and steroid injections for minor cases. Surgery is a last resort option when conservative treatments don’t work to bring you relief.
Orthopedic Specialist In Catonsville, MD
The earlier spinal stenosis is detected, the sooner you can start treatment, and the better the chances of a positive outcome. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, don’t delay and get checked by an expert orthopedic specialist.
For comprehensive orthopedic care, visit the Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland. Our board-certified orthopedic surgeons provide expert care, pain management therapies, and rehabilitation tools to help you get better. We also offer treatments for knee pain, foot pain, sports injuries, and much more.
If you would like to schedule a consultation with a top-rated orthopedic surgeon in Catonsville, MD, call us at (410) 644-1880 or (855) 4MD-BONE. You can also fill out our online appointment request form. We look forward to helping you take back control of your health!