Your spinal canal is a hollow space in your vertebral bones that runs from your neck to your lower back. It protects your spinal cord, the bundle of nerves that connects your brain to the rest of your body.
A healthy spinal canal is wide enough for your spinal cord, and it doesn’t pinch or compress your nerves as you move through life. However, degeneration can trigger a painful condition called spinal stenosis.
Spinal stenosis is characterized by a narrowing spinal canal. As many as 11% of Americans have it, and it often gets worse over time.
If you’ve noticed new or worsening back or neck pain, don’t ignore your symptoms. Dr. Peter Le and our team at Spinal Stenosis and Disc Center, Inc. specialize in diagnosing and treating spinal stenosis, allowing you to get back to enjoying your life.
Here are a few of the most common signs of spinal stenosis we see in our clinic:
1. Back pain
Most often, spinal stenosis causes noticeable back pain and stiffness. The pain may develop anywhere along your spine, from your shoulders to your lower back. If you have spinal stenosis in your lower back, it’s called lumbar spinal stenosis.
The intensity of your pain varies depending on the location and severity of your spinal stenosis. Some people experience an ongoing, dull ache, while others get sharp pangs of pain that feel like electrical shocks.
2. Neck pain
If spinal stenosis develops in your neck, it’s called cervical spinal stenosis. This type of spinal stenosis can cause chronic neck pain, stiffness, and limited head mobility. The pain might feel like you slept at an awkward angle, but it persists for days or weeks at a time.
3. Numbness or tingling
Spinal stenosis pinches the nerves in your spinal cord, and nerve pain is a common symptom. Nerve pain can feel like numbness, tingling, burning, or a “pins and needles” sensation.
Nerve pain from spinal stenosis may radiate beyond your back. Depending on the location of the spinal stenosis, you might feel numbness or tingling in your arms, hands, buttocks, legs, or feet.
4. Weakness in extremities
Spinal stenosis can cause muscle weakness in your arms or legs if inflammation compresses key nerves in your spinal cord. You might notice weakness or a feeling of heaviness in your extremities.
Cervical spinal stenosis can affect your arms and hands, and you might find that buttoning your shirt or doing small tasks becomes more challenging. Lumbar spinal stenosis may affect your legs and feet, making you trip or stumble more often.
5. Pain that worsens with activity
Back or neck pain from spinal stenosis often comes and goes. However, lumbar spinal stenosis may get worse when you stand or walk for long periods of time. This pain may temporarily improve when you sit down or bend over.
If you have severe cervical spinal stenosis, it could impact your balance and make standing or walking more difficult than usual. Some people find that cervical spinal stenosis contributes to headaches and bouts of dizziness.
Spinal stenosis is a degenerative condition, and it usually comes on slowly. Since it’s often caused by osteoarthritis and bone spurs, spinal stenosis is most common among adults over age 50.
Do these symptoms sound familiar? If so, schedule a consultation with Dr. Le and our team at Spinal Stenosis and Disc Center, Inc. Call our Santa Monica, California, office at 310-451-5851 or request an appointment online now.