Is Spinal Stenosis The Culprit?
There are several reasons why millions of Americans suffer from back and spinal issues. Spinal stenosis is among the most common, affecting up to 500,000 persons every year. Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spaces within the spine. While the condition affects older persons typically, anyone is at risk.
Getting narrower and narrower
A stack of bones called vertebrae surrounds the spinal column. Nerves branch out at each interval, traveling to different parts of the body. Spinal stenosis occurs when space becomes narrower due to arthritis, injury, herniated discs, or thicker ligaments in the back. The spinal column and nerves now press on the surrounding bone, causing a range of unwanted side-effects. Look for these 3 early symptoms to determine whether to see a doctor for spinal stenosis.
1. An unfamiliar numbness
In most cases, the narrowing of the space in the spinal column affects the surrounding nerves. These pinched nerves give rise to an unfamiliar sensation or numbness. Numbness can come and go. In time, the feeling increases in length and intensity, giving a sense of pins and needles. The numbness usually happens in the lower back, buttocks, or leg. This feeling depends on the location of the stenosis.
2. It’s a big pain in the neck
Spinal stenosis is not limited to the lower back. Cervical spinal stenosis is a common occurrence. The compression of one or more vertebrae in the neck can cause pain. The pain, like the numbness, may be intermittent. The pain can also move down the neck to the shoulders and upper arm.
3. Things just aren’t balanced
What does spinal stenosis have to do with balance? Some nerves in the lower body are responsible for maintaining a sense of balance. Depending on the location of the compression, the nerves that affect balance can be impacted. Persons may notice that one foot drops lower than the other. Weakness in the legs can happen suddenly, creating poor balance or falls.
Getting in front of the issue
While there is no cure, there are ways to manage the issue. In some cases, early treatment can relieve these symptoms to the point of normalcy. In the early stages, the doctor will recommend over the counter medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or more potent prescription painkillers. Other treatment includes rest, steroid injections, and back or neck braces. Combined with physical therapy, most persons will see an improvement in symptoms. In severe cases, the doctor will turn to surgery. Minimally invasive surgery can help by removing part of the bone or disc that has been causing the issue.
Don’t leave it to chance
If any of these 3 symptoms pop up, the reason may be spinal stenosis. To be sure, seek advice from a specialist. Make sure to outline all symptoms so the healthcare provider can adequately diagnose the issue. From there, the doctor can provide a range of treatments, including surgery. The earlier persons identify the symptoms, the better.