Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal. It usually occurs in the lumbar spine (lower back).

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Causes

There are several causes of spinal stenosis. It is usually a degenerative (arthritis) problem where a combination of bone spurs, calcification of ligaments, and disc degeneration or bulging causes the narrowing.

Symptoms

The main symptoms of spinal stenosis are back and leg pain. Pain in the legs can occur with standing or walking. Usually, people will have progressive difficulty walking for any distance and feel weakness, numbness, or heaviness in the hips and legs. They may feel better leaning forward (on a shopping cart or walker) or even riding a bicycle. The severity of the symptoms usually progresses slowly as the spinal canal becomes more narrow.

Diagnostics

  • History and physical exam
  • X-ray: Shows bone spurs, calcifications
  • MRI or CT scan: Shows the degree of narrowing in the spinal canal
  • Vascular tests: Evaluate the blood flow to the legs
  • Neurologic testing: EMG/nerve conduction testing

There are other diseases that cause similar symptoms, including PVD (peripheral vascular disease) and diabetic neuropathy. Other tests may be needed to determine if they are a factor in your symptoms.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms. Options for spinal stenosis include:

Medications

To reduce inflammation, either over the counter or prescription NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).

Spinal Injections

Corticosteroid (cortisone) injections reduce inflammation within the spinal canal and reduce irritation of the nerves. People with mild to moderate stenosis can have long-term relief from these injections.

Bracing

To help stabilize the spine in more severe cases.

Physical Therapy

To strengthen the core muscles and back muscles to help stabilize the spine.

Surgery

Surgery is always a last resort but sometimes is needed if symptoms become severe enough or if there is damage. The surgery involves removing bone spurs, calcified ligaments, and anything that is narrowing the spinal canal in order to relieve the pressure on the nerves.

Lowcountry Orthopaedics’ Spine Team

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Office Phone

(843) 797-5050

Office Headquarters

2880 Tricom Street
North Charleston, SC 29406

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