At Southeastern Spine Center, we philosophically believe that education is an integral part of the plan of care for our patients. Understanding their condition and treatment options is key for patients to make an informed decision for their road to recovery. Below is some basic information about commonly treated conditions. You may also view our Helpful Links page for additional resources.
What is Spinal Stenosis? Spinal Stenosis occurs when the spinal canal, which contains and protects the spinal cord and nerve roots, narrows and pinches the spinal cord and nerves, causing pain and loss of sensation. This narrowing is a result of the degeneration, wearing down, of the vertebral joint and disks.
Types: There are two types of spinal stenosis: Lumbar Stenosis and Cervical Stenosis. While lumbar spinal stenosis is more common, cervical spinal stenosis is often more dangerous because it involves compression of the spinal cord, as explained below in more detail.
In lumbar stenosis, the spinal nerve roots in the lower back are compressed, or choked, and this can produce symptoms of Sciatica — tingling, weakness or numbness that radiates from the low back and into the buttocks and legs — especially with activity.
Spinal stenosis pain in the neck–cervical spinal stenosis–can be far more dangerous by compressing the spinal cord. Spinal cord stenosis may lead to serious symptoms, including major body weakness or even paralysis. Such severe spinal stenosis symptoms are virtually impossible in the lumbar spine, however, as the spinal cord is not present in the lumbar spine.
Symptoms: Leg pain with walking (claudication) can be caused by either arterial circulatory insufficiency (vascular claudication) or from spinal stenosis (neurogenic or pseudo-claudication). Leg pain from either condition will go away with rest, but with spinal stenosis the patient usually has to sit down for a few minutes to ease the leg and often low back pain, whereas leg pain from vascular claudication will go away if the patient simply stops walking.
Although occasionally the leg pain and stenosis symptoms will come on acutely, they generally develop over the course of several years. The longer a patient with spinal stenosis stands or walks, the worse the leg pain will get.
Flexing forward or sitting will open up the spinal canal and relieve the leg pain and other symptoms, but they recur if the patient gets back into an upright posture. Numbness and tingling can accompany the pain, but true weakness is a rare symptom of spinal stenosis. An older person leaning over the handle of their shopping cart while making short stumbling steps often has spinal stenosis.