Spinal stenosis is the constriction or narrowing of the spaces within your spine, which can cause compression of nerves that travel through the spine. It can occur anywhere along the spine, but spinal stenosis mainly occurs in the neck and lower back regions. If you have spinal stenosis, you may or may not experience the symptoms. Patients with symptoms report tingling, numbness, pain, and muscle weakness, worsening over time. Treatment commonly involves medications, but your interventional pain specialist Houston, may recommend surgery to create additional space for the nerves in severe cases.
Causes of spinal stenosis
The bones of your spine, which run from your neck to the lower back, form a spinal canal that protects the nerves. Some people naturally have a small canal, but you can acquire spinal stenosis when something constricts the spine’s space. Spinal stenosis may result from:
Your body can form bone spurs due to wear and tear damage from osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis that destroys the protective cartilage, allowing bones to rub against each other. When this happens, the bones wear out, prompting the formation of bone spurs. Osteoarthritis can affect any bones in your body, including the spine. Other diseases such as Paget’s disease can also cause bone overgrowth in the spine.
Trauma from a car accident or a fall can cause dislocations or fractures that damage the vertebrae. When a vertebra is displaced, it may damage the contents of the spinal canal or press on nerves. The spinal space may also narrow due to swelling of tissues after back surgery.
Herniated or bulging discs are often a result of disk deterioration. Discs are small soft cushions between the vertebra that act as shock absorbers. Over time, they dry out, causing cracks in the annulus – the tough outer membrane. If the disc’s annulus develops a tear or weak spot, the soft inner material may push through, pressing on the spinal cord or nerves.
Treatment for spinal stenosis
Before thinking about invasive procedures such as surgery, specialists recommend conservative treatments such as exercise and medications. Your doctor may prescribe medications such as analgesics to relieve pain. Other drugs such as antidepressants and anti-seizure medicines can help with pain caused by nerve damage. If your symptoms don’t improve with these medications, your doctor may prescribe stronger drugs such as opiates for pain relief. Although they help with pain relief, long-term use can cause addiction and other side effects such as cartilage damage.
If your doctor prescribes antidepressants, you may need to take them close to bedtime since they make you sleepy. Other side effects of antidepressants include weight gain or loss, sweating, dry mouth, blurred vision, and constipation. Over-the-counter medications can also cause side effects such as ulcers and stomach problems, especially among older adults. For this reason, it is essential to check with your doctor before taking any medications, including over-the-counter drugs.
Corticosteroids and nerve blocks can also be injected near the damaged nerves to relieve pain.
Consult with your provider at William L Yancey, MD, to learn more about spinal stenosis.