If you’re one of the 250,000-500,000 Americans with a narrowing spinal canal — spinal stenosis — you know the pain and limitations it brings. Pain, numbness, weakness, and tingling often accompany spinal stenosis, and the symptoms travel from the narrowed place in your spine to the corresponding limbs.
For example, if you have cervical spinal stenosis (in your neck), your symptoms may radiate down your arms and affect your hands and fingers, making it tough to lift, grip, and write. On the other hand, lumbar spinal stenosis (in your lower back) can affect your hips, legs, and feet, making your limbs feel heavy, weak, and crampy.
Although there are treatments to help you manage these symptoms, the question we get most often at Princeton Pain & Spine Institute is: Is spinal stenosis reversible?
Dr. Dinash Yanamadula, our double-board certified and fellowship-trained interventional pain specialist, explains spinal stenosis and answers the question about reversibility.
What does it mean to reverse spinal stenosis?
Before Dr. Yanamadula can answer the question of whether spinal stenosis is reversible, it’s critical to define reversibility.
Most people equate reversibility with a cure. Strictly speaking, spinal stenosis isn’t curable, so it isn’t reversible.
However, depending on what’s causing your spinal stenosis and how far it’s progressed, today’s treatments might reduce your symptoms to the point where it feels like your condition has resolved completely. The level of relief and remission you achieve depends largely on the underlying cause of your spinal stenosis.
Irreversible spinal stenosis
Spinal stenosis has several causes, and the root of your condition matters. Here are some spinal stenosis causes we can treat but can’t reverse.
- Osteoarthritis: cartilage loss in your spine
- Rheumatoid arthritis: an autoimmune disease that attacks your joints
- Congenital defects: when you’re born with a small or narrow spinal canal
- Paget’s disease: a bone disease that can change the density and shape of your bones
If an incurable condition leads to spinal stenosis, you’ll likely deal with the problem for the rest of your life. However, we can keep you comfortable and slow the disease’s progression in many cases.
“Reversible” spinal stenosis
Resolving the underlying cause can effectively reverse your symptoms if you develop spinal stenosis from a curable condition. Here are some examples of fixable problems:
- Bone spurs
- Herniated discs
- Thickened ligaments
Dr. Yanamadula offers a comprehensive lineup of treatments that address these conditions and eliminate the reason you have spinal stenosis.
For instance, over-the-counter or prescription-strength anti-inflammatories that resolve chronic inflammation can free up spinal space.
Princeton Pain & Spine Institute also offers highly effective physical therapy that targets spinal stenosis and retrains your muscles and ligaments to support age- and disease-related spinal degeneration. Dr. Christine Savela specializes in helping spinal stenosis patients regain strength and function.
Surgically repairing herniated discs or removing bone spurs eliminates the culprit crowding your spine, relieves nerve compression, and stops spinal stenosis symptoms.
Dr. Yanamadula may also recommend minimally invasive laminectomy surgery to shave off a small portion of your vertebral bone to create more space.
You might also be a good candidate for spinal fusion, a surgical procedure that permanently connects two or more vertebrae to prevent painful movement.
Can spinal stenosis be reversed?
While we can’t technically cure spinal stenosis, we can treat it so successfully that you could consider the condition reversed. However, remember that age, genetics, activity levels, disease, injuries, and other factors continually affect your spine and may cause spinal stenosis to return even after successful treatments.
Request an appointment online or by phone at Princeton Pain & Spine Institute in Lawrenceville and Edgewater, New Jersey, to find out what it will take to reverse — or at least significantly improve — your spinal stenosis symptoms.