What is spinal stenosis? | Dr. Andrew Cash, MD Las Vegas, Nevada

By Brooke Strickland and  Andrew Cash, MD

Spinal stenosis puts pressure on your spinal cord or spinal nerves and can cause pain and numbness in the legs, buttocks, feet, back, neck, arms, hands or shoulders.   Other symptoms might include lack of coordination and weakness in the limbs as well as loss of sensation in lower extremities, as well as issues with bladder or bowel function.  Most commonly, spinal stenosis happens in the neck and lower back.  Symptoms can vary and many times patients won’t have pain associated with the condition.  MRI’s will confirm spinal stenosis.  If you have spinal stenosis in the lower back, the compressed nerves will often make standing or walking for long periods of time difficult and uncomfortable.  The pain is relieved with bending forward and sitting.  People most likely to develop this condition are individuals over age 50 and those that have inherited conditions that increase the risk of developing it, such as individuals that have smaller spinal canals.

What are the causes of spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal cord or nerves are compressed and space within the spinal canal is reduced.  This is most often related to the aging process and the general deterioration of the spine due to aging.  Some aging related causes of this condition may be to osteoarthritis, degeneration of the discs, or ligament thickening of the spinal cord.  In addition, spinal injuries (such as those seen in fractures, car accidents, or other dislocations) can be attributed to the development of spinal stenosis.  Other more severe causes may initiate the development of spinal stenosis, such as spinal tumors, diseases, or birth disorders.

If you think you may be suffering from spinal stenosis, it’s important to talk to a doctor that specializes in spinal disorders.  When you visit your doctor, he/she will evaluate muscle strength, reflexes, walking ability, range of motion, and much more.  If your doctor determines that spinal stenosis may be what you’re dealing with, an MRI and spinal x-ray will be ordered.  These will allow for a cross-section of spinal review, including shape and size of the spinal cord, any damages that may have occurred to the ligaments or discs, and much more.

How will spinal stenosis be treated?

If over the counter medicines aren’t managing the pain, your doctor may provide opiate drugs such as oxycodone or vicodin.  Sometimes, other medications are used to manage the pain associated with damaged nerves, so these also may be an option for treating pain.  Your doctor may order physical therapy, which will allow the opportunity for you to build up muscle strength and endurance, while also helping improve balance, increase flexibility, and help alleviate pain.  For more extreme cases, steroid injections or surgery may be offered.

Contact Dr. Cash at Desert Institute of Spine Care for an appointment at: http://www.disclv.com

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