Pain, tingling, and numbness that worsen over time — those are the common symptoms of spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the space in the spinal canal.
Not everyone with spinal stenosis has symptoms, but it’s a progressive condition. Once symptoms start, they tend to worsen over time. Though you can’t reverse spinal stenosis, there are treatments that can manage symptoms.
At Douglas J. Abeles MD & Associates in Castro Valley, California, we provide a full spectrum of treatment options for spinal stenosis, from conservative care to spine surgery.
Here, we explain spinal stenosis and what you can do to minimize symptoms.
What spinal stenosis is
Spinal stenosis occurs when you have a narrowing of space in your spinal canal, putting pressure on the spinal cord and spinal nerves. This pressure may cause neck or back pain that radiates into your arms or legs.
The narrowing may occur in any part of your spine, but most often affects the lumbar spine (lower back) and cervical spine (neck).
Anyone can develop spinal stenosis. But your risk increases as you get older because of the degenerative changes that occur with age, leading to spinal conditions like osteoarthritis or a herniated disc.
It’s possible to have spinal stenosis and not know it, especially during the early stages. Because it’s a progessive condition, symptoms may appear sooner or later, and then worsen as you lose more space in the spinal canal.
Not reversible, but treatable
Unfortunately, you can’t reverse spinal stenosis, but we offer many treatments to manage symptoms. The type of treatment best suited for you depends on the location of your spinal stenosis, the severity of your symptoms, and your overall health.
In most cases, we start with conservtive treatments to manage pain, such as:
- Heat and cold therapy
- An at-home exercise program
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Physical therapy
If these interventions fail to reduce your pain, we may try a corticosteroid injection to reduce inflammation and swelling at the site of the nerve root causing your pain.
When do I need spinal stenosis surgery?
We may recommend surgery if your spinal stenosis symptoms fail to improve with conservative care or you have severe symptoms that affect your ability to walk or maintain control over your bowel or bladder.
Surgery for spinal stenosis aims to open the space in your spinal canal, relieving pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves.
For this surgery, we may perform:
- A laminectomy (removing the bony spurs and bony wall of the vertebrae)
- Insertion of interspinous process spacers that increase space in between vertebrae (for lumbar stenosis)
- Spinal fusion (joining two or more vertebrae to stop painful movements)
When possible, we perform minimally invasive spine surgery to reduce incision size, post-surgical pain, and recovery time.
Spinal stenosis isn’t reversible, but it’s treatable. We can design a comprehensive plan to help you manage your neck or back pain. Contact our office in Castro Valley, California, today to schedule an appointment.