If you’ve ever seen the backside of a switchboard or the tangled cables of a network server, you have an idea of what the nerves look like as they snake in and out of your spinal column. The nerves are delicate, highly sensitive, and extremely numerous, so there’s not much room for error. If anything narrows or decreases the space in your spinal column, it can put pressure on the nerves and cause a chain reaction of warning signs throughout your body.
This condition is called spinal stenosis, and it can be caused by several different issues, including osteoarthritis, bone growths or spurs, thickened ligaments, tumors, or herniated discs. At any given time, up to 500,000 Americans suffer from spinal stenosis. If you’re one of them, Dinash Yanamadula, MD, and our team at Princeton Pain & Spine Institute can get you on the path to wellness.
Dr. Yanamadula specializes in spinal conditions and chronic pain issues. If you have spinal stenosis, you may be experiencing warning signs that you don’t even realize are related to your spine. In this blog, Dr. Yanamadula explains what those signs are.
Signs of spinal stenosis
Your spine runs the length of your back, from the base of your skull to your tailbone. That covers a lot of area, so doctors categorize it into three regions: cervical (neck), thoracic (chest or middle), and lumbar (lower back).
Spinal stenosis typically occurs in the cervical and lumbar regions. Both cervical and lumbar spinal stenosis can cause pain in the spinal area where the problem originates and also cause signs elsewhere in your body.
In your neck
If you have cervical spinal stenosis, you may feel:
- Neck pain
- Tingling, numbness, or weakness in your hand or arm
- Off-balance when you walk
- Bowel or bladder problems in extreme cases
Except for the pain in your neck, these symptoms may mislead you into thinking you have other conditions more closely related to the area where you feel the symptoms. For instance, you may suspect your weak hand has something to do with a repetitive stress injury or that your difficulty keeping your balance is related to an inner-ear problem.
That’s why it’s important to know the possible warning signs of spinal stenosis and come see Dr. Yanamadula as soon as you start to experience them.
In your lower back
If you have lumbar spinal stenosis, you may feel:
- Back pain
- Leg cramps
- Weakness and tingling in the legs or feet
- Pain in the legs that eases when you sit down or bend forward
Determining where your spinal stenosis is located and exactly what’s causing it takes an expert like Dr. Yanamadula. After reviewing all your symptoms, he may also use X-ray, MRI, or CT technology to definitively diagnose your spinal condition.
Treating your spinal stenosis
If left untreated, spinal stenosis can sideline you with debilitating pain, severe balance issues, urinary incontinence, dependence on painkillers, depression, and a decreased quality of life. The sooner you begin treatment, the better your chances will be of having success with conservative measures, such as physical therapy and over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
If these treatments don’t give you enough pain relief, Dr. Yanamadula may suggest an epidural steroid injection, particularly if the compressed nerve is your sciatica nerve in your lower back. Although temporary ― it lasts a few months to a year ― it may give you enough relief to participate fully in physical therapy and make significant progress toward your recovery.
If these measures fail, surgery is an option. Dr. Yanamadula can decompress the nerves by widening the space where the nerves exit your vertebrae or by addressing disc damage. Rest assured he always uses the least invasive techniques to ensure your safety and a successful outcome.
If you have the warning signs of spinal stenosis and need a diagnosis, or if you need treatment for the condition, book an appointment online or over the phone with Princeton Pain & Spine Institute today.