4 Telltale Signs of Spinal Stenosis

4 Telltale Signs of Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a common disorder, causing symptoms in up to 500,000 Americans each year. However, few people understand the condition or how to spot the signs of a problem.

As a board-certified neurosurgeon, Dr. Arien Smith brings his expertise in nonsurgical and surgical treatments for spinal stenosis to Brain and Spine Institute of New York and New Jersey. In this blog, Dr. Smith offers insight into spinal stenosis and why it causes these four common symptoms.

The anatomy of a problem

The average adult has 24 vertebrae in their spine. These bones are stacked on top of each other to form the spinal column, which protects the spinal cord passing through its center.

Spinal stenosis develops when spaces within your spine grow narrow, putting pressure on spinal nerves. These restrictions can occur anywhere along the spine, including your neck and lower back.

While it’s possible to be born with a small spinal canal, this condition usually happens over time due to:

Because spinal stenosis typically develops slowly, it’s possible to have a narrowing in your spine without realizing it. However, it can also trigger four particular symptoms, depending on its location and severity.

Telltale signs of spinal stenosis

When you have spinal stenosis, the spinal cord or the nerve roots exiting your spinal column don’t have enough space. Because of the nerve involvement, it causes four symptoms that are easy to spot.

1. Pain

Several problems can lead to back pain or neck pain. However, spinal stenosis often causes pain that comes and goes. It can also vary from a dull ache, tenderness, or cramping to burning or shock-like jolts. 

It’s also common for spinal stenosis pain to worsen when you stand for long periods or walk, especially when walking downhill. If you find that your pain improves when you bend slightly forward, it’s often a telltale sign of spinal stenosis.

2. Tingling or numbness

Do you have abnormal sensations like tingling, crawling, or numbness that radiate into your arms or legs? These symptoms follow a constricted nerve path when you have spinal stenosis. 

For example, if you have constriction in your lower back, you can experience sciatica symptoms running into one or both legs. Similarly, stenosis in the cervical spine can cause these sensations to radiate into the neck, shoulder, arms, and hands.

3. Weakness

Spinal stenosis also causes heaviness or weakness along the affected nerve, interfering with your motor skills. When it involves the lower spine, these issues can lead to problems lifting your foot or toes, even causing you to involuntarily drag your foot or trip while walking.

You can also have problems with fine motor skills in your hands when spinal stenosis occurs in your neck. This can lead to challenges performing daily tasks, like buttoning a shirt or writing.

4. Loss of bladder or bowel control

While less common, these symptoms typically appear in severe cases of spinal stenosis, and you shouldn’t ignore them. Without treatment, spinal stenosis can worsen and cause permanent nerve damage leading to irreversible complications, including incontinence, numbness and weakness, balance problems, and paralysis.

Diagnosing and treating spinal stenosis

Don’t wait to get treatment for spinal stenosis, especially if you have symptoms that interfere with your daily life. Dr. Smith can diagnose your condition, and he offers nonsurgical and surgical interventions to reduce pressure on your nerves, restore function, and ease your symptoms.

To learn more about spinal stenosis and your treatment options, contact Brain and Spine Institute of New York and New Jersey by calling or booking an appointment online today.

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