Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosisis a narrowing of your spinal canal. Spinal stenosisis when the space that houses your spinal cord and nerve roots become narrower – so narrow that your spinal cord and nerve roots get squeezed. Doctors often call this compression.

Compressed spinal cord and nerves doesn’t sound pleasant, and really, spinal stenosis isn’t. It leads to pain in your lower back, legs, neck, arms, or hands. It all depends on where in your back your spinal cord and/or nerves are getting compressed.

Spinal stenosis can happen anywhere in your spine, but it’s most likely to happen in your low back (lumbar spine) or in your neck (cervical spine).

Spinal stenosis is quite common because changes in the spine are a natural part of getting older. Of course, that doesn’t mean that only older people will get spinal stenosis, or that everyone will get spinal stenosis as they age, but it is more common in older people.

Here’s an amazing thing about spinal stenosis: it may not even cause you pain. The channels in your spine may narrow, but they might not press on your spinal cord or nerve roots. People with spinal stenosis have trouble walking, they often have to stop. Other symptoms include leg or arm numbness, or muscle weakness.There could be many other ways that you can feel spinal stenosis.

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Spinal Stenosis

The term “stenosis” refers to a narrowing of any of the channels in the human body, and as its name implies, spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal, usually associated with aging. Although stenosis can affect any segment of the spine, it is most commonly seen in the lumbar (low back) and cervical (neck) regions. Stenosis is rare in the thoracic spine.

Spinal Stenosis Anatomy and Symptoms

The structures of the spine include bones, nerves and ligaments. The spinal canal is formed by a ring of bones called vertebrae, designed to protect the spinal cord and nerves. Messages from the brain to the body and vice versa travel along the spinal cord, which ends at the first spinal vertebra and branches off into nerve roots that innervate the body’s periphery. Ligaments are tough connective tissues that stabilize the spine and hold the vertebrae in place.

The cervical spine is made up of seven vertebrae, and houses eight nerves that branch off to innervate the muscles of the upper body. The lumbar spine is made up of five vertebral bodies and five pairs of nerves that innervate the lower body. Over time, degeneration from wear and tear can cause the spinal canal to narrow, placing pressure on the neural bodies. The result is pain in the affected nerves, and weakness, numbness, pain and tingling in the associate muscles.

Diagnosis of Spinal Stenosis

A clinical exam includes patient health and family history, information about any existing metabolic or musculoskeletal conditions, lifestyle behaviors and other factors that may be deemed relevant. The clinician will ask detailed questions about your symptoms, including location, onset, frequency, intensity, and which movements make the pain better or worse.

A neurological exam may be conducted to identify nerve-related symptoms. A nerve conduction study or EMG may be ordered to measure electrical conduction between your nerves and muscles. Imaging by X-ray, CT or MRI may be prescribed to confirm diagnosis.

Treatment for Spinal Stenosis

Traditional treatment for spinal stenosis may include:

  • pain and anti-inflammatory medications
  • epidural cortisone injections
  • activity modification
  • physical therapy
  • exercise
  • surgery to open up the spinal canal

Treatment at NYDNR

The spine pain specialists at NYDNRehab take an individualized and holistic approach to treating spinal conditions. Our goals are to eliminate pain and restore function, so our patients can enjoy the best possible quality of life.

Treatment for spinal stenosis at NYDNR may include:

  • Physical therapy to restore muscle balance
  • Postural training to reduce pain
  • Gait assessment and retraining
  • Manual therapies
  • Spinal decompression therapy
  • ESWT (extracorporeal shock wave therapy) to remove scar tissue and promote healing

Drugs, surgery and reduced activity are not your only options for treating spinal stenosis. Contact NYDNR today, and let our team of back pain specialists help you achieve better spinal health.


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