Is Spinal Stenosis Dangerous?

Spinal stenosis is more common in older people, but it’s not an inevitable part of aging. About 250,000 to 500,000 Americans have spinal stenosis, many without symptoms. For those who do have symptoms — which include pain, weakness, and tingling in your neck, arms, legs, lower back, and shoulders — they often start out mild and worsen with time.

Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal canal that runs down the center of your back becomes compressed. The spinal canal houses nerves and your spinal cord. Usually this space becomes compressed or narrowed over time, often as a result of osteoarthritis. 

In some cases, people are born with narrow spinal canals and may experience symptoms while still young. 

Our team at Douglas J. Abeles MD & Associates in Castro Valley, California, treats patients ages 8 and older for a range of orthopedic, sports-related, and spinal conditions, including spinal stenosis.

Common and severe symptoms of spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis usually affects your neck or lower back. Your symptoms depend on what part of your spine is affected. 

If your neck is affected, the compression may cause pain in your neck and shoulders but affect other parts of your body. You may also feel tingling or weakness in your hands, arms, feet, or legs. In some cases, the nerves affected may result in bowel and bladder dysfunction, including urinary urgency and incontinence.

When spinal stenosis affects your lower back, you may feel tingling or weakness in your feet or legs, as well as back pain. The pain in your legs may be so severe that it makes walking for long periods of time painful and challenging, requiring you to rest often. 

In severe, but rare, cases, long-term spinal stenosis may result in permanent numbness, weakness, incontinence, and even paralysis.

How to treat spinal stenosis

Noninvasive or minimally invasive treatment can relieve most spinal stenosis symptoms. These treatments include exercise, physical therapy, and over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories. For some, steroid injections in combination with lifestyle changes can help relieve pain and discomfort.

If your spinal stenosis is severe or noninvasive treatments don’t work, you may be a candidate for surgery, which can help ease nerve compression and reduce irritation. Dr. Abeles has extensive experience in both conventional open surgery and minimally invasive endoscopic surgery. 

Are you feeling tingling, weakness, numbness, or pain in your arms, neck, lower back, shoulders, and legs? Call us for a diagnosis and treatment plan to help you return to a pain-free active lifestyle.

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