Age affects pretty much every part of the body, and while some changes can be really evident — like wrinkles and gray hair, for instance — other changes stay “hidden” until they start to cause symptoms. Spinal stenosis is a good example. In spinal stenosis, the spaces inside your spine bones (vertebrae) become narrower. Since your spine acts as a conduit or canal for all the nerves in your body, as this canal narrows, it can start to place pressure on the nerves. And that means you can wind up experiencing a whole host of symptoms, some mild and some very severe.
Spinal stenosis is much more common among people who are 50 years of age and older, and it can occur in two areas of the spine (the two areas that are most flexible): the cervical spine (the neck area of the spine) and the lumbar spine (the lower back). You may develop stenosis in either or both of these areas.
A few people develop stenosis as a result of injury to the spine, and some people are born with a very narrow spinal canal. But most people who have spinal stenosis develop it as a result of age-related changes inside the spine.
Normal wear and tear on your back increases the likelihood you’ll develop small bony growths called bone spurs. Spurs can also develop alongside spinal arthritis. These spurs grow out from the canal, decreasing the size of the canal and also pressing on your nerves. The ligaments (fibrous bands of tissue) connecting your vertebrae also tend to become thicker as you get older, and they too can press on nerves. Thickened ligaments also make your back less flexible, which can increase stenosis symptoms. And finally, the spongy discs between your vertebrae tend to lose fluid as you age, making it more likely nerves will become “pinched” and irritated.
Depending on where stenosis is occurring (cervical spine, lumbar spine or both), you may have symptoms in your upper back and arms or your lower back, buttocks, and legs. Here are four symptoms to watch out for:
Not all people will experience the same symptoms or the same degree of discomfort.
Because it’s a degenerative condition, many people with spinal stenosis experience worsening symptoms as they get older. But there are treatments that can help relieve the symptoms of stenosis. At Douglas J. Abeles M.D. and Associates, treatment begins conservatively with medication and therapy when appropriate. When these options aren’t effective, minimally invasive surgery may be recommended to relieve nerve compression so you can feel more comfortable. If you have symptoms of spinal stenosis, getting treatment as early as possible is important for preventing your symptoms from getting worse. Get the relief you need for your back symptoms. Book an appointment online today.