Chronic pain conditions can include a multitude of debilitating long-term disorders that impact mobility and overall quality of life. Increased risk of developing such conditions may be attributed to a wide range of factors, including:
- Lifestyle habits
- Accidents/physical injuries.
While decades may pass for many without having the experience of acute, neuropathic, or chronic episodes, it is important to remain mindful of age-induced pain symptoms that may develop gradually over time.
Age Can Play a Significant Role in Our Physiological Health
As we get older, our risk for degenerative chronic pain conditions increases, particularly in our backs and necks. Statistics indicate that 95% of people will experience degenerative spinal changes by age 50.
For many of us, routine wear and tear on our backs can eventually lead to narrowing of the spinal canal. This constriction of the spinal canal, a condition known as Spinal Stenosis, puts excessive pressure on the spinal cord and/or the nerves in the compressed region of the body, which often results in varying levels of pain and discomfort.
Types and Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis
The different types of spinal stenosis are classified based on the location of spinal compression. Patients may fall into more than one classification, depending on the range of spinal canal narrowing.
The two main types of spinal stenosis are:
- Lumbar StenosisThis is the most common form of spinal stenosis, which stems from narrowing of the spinal canal in a patient’s lower back. Symptoms of lumbar stenosis may include:
- Numbness, tingling, and/or weakness throughout the feet or legs
- Leg cramping or pain after standing or walking for long stretches
- Back pain
- Cervical StenosisThis type of spinal stenosis results from the restriction of the spinal canal in a patient’s neck. Symptoms of cervical stenosis may include:
- Numbness, tingling, and/or weakness throughout the hands, arms, legs, and feet
- Issues with walking and balance
- Neck painSevere cases of cervical stenosis may also be marked by bladder and/or bowel dysfunction.
Causes of Spinal Stenosis
A relatively small percentage of the population is born with various back conditions that can eventually progress into congenital spinal stenosis, which typically affects people between the ages of 30 to 50 years old.
But more often, other factors trigger the onset of this chronic pain condition as we get older:
- Bone OvergrowthThe deterioration of the spinal bones due to osteoarthritis can lead to bone spurs. These spurs can eventually grow into the spinal canal, causing the space in the canal to narrow. Additionally, Paget disease can also instigate bone overgrowth.
- Thickened LigamentsOver time, the strong ligaments that hold your spinal bones together can thicken and become stiff. As these cords get wider, their mass can eventually expand into the spinal canal.
- Herniated DiscsThe vertebrae in our spine are cushioned by small discs that absorb shock. As we get older, the jellylike material surrounding these small, round, and flat discs can dry out, reducing their ability to serve as natural shock absorbers.Additionally, exterior vertebrae cracks can leak this inner fluid, causing pressure on the surrounding nerves and spinal cords.
- Abnormal GrowthTumors forming on the inside of the spinal cord may also restrict space and movement within the canal. Although not common, if an abnormal growth is causing spinal stenosis, it can be detected and diagnosed with a CT or MRI.
Spinal injuries can also cause spinal stenosis, regardless of a patient’s age or previous health profile. Spinal fractures and displaced bones can cause damage, pressure, and pain to the canal. Additionally, swelling and inflammation from surgical procedures can also cause nerve, back, or neck discomfort.
Consult with a Chronic Pain Specialist to Diagnose Spinal Stenosis
Patients experiencing lumbar or cervical discomfort often request a referral to a skilled and experienced chronic pain physician to determine if their radiating aches and numbness is related to spinal stenosis.
During the consultation, a licensed pain management practitioner may conduct several imaging tests, such as:
- X-RaysX-rays are commonly used to identify bone spurs or other boney changes that may create a narrowing of the spinal canal space.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)MRIs use radio and magnetic waves to create various spinal images. An MRI can outline any potential ligament and disc damage. These highly sophisticated tests can even reveal the presence of tumors, which may also cause lumbar and cervical aches.
- Computerized Tomography (CT)For patients unable to have an MRI, chronic pain specialists may recommend computerized tomography testing. A standardized CT test combines X-ray images shot from various angles to create a comprehensive image of the afflicted region of the body. Additionally, a physician may also suggest a CT myelogram, where a contrast dye is injected into the afflicted area before performing a CT scan.
Treatment for Spinal Stenosis
Once diagnosed with lumbar or cervical stenosis (or both), it’s critical to understand available treatment and therapies to ensure you’re equipped with all the information needed to choose the course of care that’s right for you.
Leading pain management specialists will often recommend starting with non- and minimally-invasive practices and procedures to find the least intrusive, most effective options. When consulting with your specialist, you may discuss various care strategies, such as:
- Lumbar Indirect Compression
- Mild Procedure
- Steroid Injections
More invasive procedures may also be suggested, based on the extent of a patient’s loss of mobility, functionality, and quality of life.
If you or your patients are suffering from spinal stenosis, Florida Pain Relief Centers can help.
At Florida Pain Relief Centers, our expert pain management specialists are dedicated to providing minimally invasive, proven procedures and treatments based in the individual needs of each patient. Our specialists are highly skilled and ready to consult with you to find a customized solution based on your situation and the nature of your pain.
Call us today at (800) 215-0029 to schedule a consultation or click the button below to set up a consultation online at one of our clinics so we can discuss options for minimizing or eliminating your spinal stenosis pain.