More serious symptoms that need prompt attention include: Difficulty or poor balance when walking. Worsening numbness and weakness of your limb. Problems controlling urine or bowel movements.
A tightened space can cause the spinal cord or nerves to become irritated, compressed or pinched, which can lead to back pain and sciatica. Spinal stenosis usually develops slowly over time. It is most commonly caused by osteoarthritis or “wear-and-tear” changes that naturally occur in your spine as you age.
Flare ups may be caused by muscle spasms, which can be caused by bending or twisting suddenly. They may be caused by an additional problem such as a slipped disc. Some patients may just reach a tipping point where their stenosis becomes symptomatic without any identifiable cause or event.
"Unfortunately, nothing can stop the progression of spinal stenosis, since it is due to daily wear and tear," said Dr. Hennenhoefer. "The symptoms of spinal stenosis typically respond to conservative treatments, including physical therapy and injections."
While a spinal stenosis diagnosis will stay with you for life, many patients with spinal stenosis live life in the absence of pain or with minimal symptoms, thanks to a variety of treatment options.
Stage 3 – Stabilization
This condition, called spinal stenosis, triggers pressure that can cause limb pain, tingling, and numbness. During this stage, patients may find they lose control of the legs. Some patients will also lose the ability to close their eyes and know whether one of their limbs is raised or lowered.
Acetaminophen (eg, Tylenol), aspirin, ibuprofen (eg, Motrin, Advil), and naproxen (eg, Aleve) are examples of OTC analgesics that your doctor may recommend for spinal stenosis.
Usually, our spine specialists consider surgery only if symptoms such as weakness, numbness, or pain in the arms or legs indicate severe or progressive nerve or spinal cord compression.
People with spinal stenosis may experience numbness, weakness or cramping in legs, pain going down the leg, abnormal bowel or bladder function, and loss of sexual function. In severe cases, spinal stenosis may cause partial or complete leg paralysis that requires emergency medical treatment.
Lumbar interspinous distraction decompression
The procedure is a type of keyhole surgery that a surgeon performs on a person under general anesthesia. One 2021 study reports a 5-year success rate of 68% for this procedure compared to a success rate of 56% for older decompression procedures.
Pain medications may be helpful with relieving spinal stenosis-related back pain, depending on what type of medication it is. Many over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen work well, but there are prescription medications as well, such as Voltaren (diclofenac) and Naproxin (naproxen).
Symptoms of spinal stenosis in the lower back can include: Pain in the lower back. Burning pain or ache that radiates down the buttocks and into the legs, that typically worsens with standing or walking and gets better with leaning forward (flexion).
This condition is called spinal stenosis. Degenerative changes of the spine are seen in up to 95% of people by the age of 50. Spinal stenosis most often occurs in adults over 60.
Most patients with cervical or lumbar spinal stenosis respond well to non-surgical treatments (such as medication), so you may not need spine surgery. However, there are situations when you may want to go ahead with spine surgery.
Spinal stenosis in some cases can be a permanent disability if it effects your ability to perform basic day to day functions. If you have spinal stenosis and you are unable to perform the normal functions of your job that makes it impossible for you to work, then you may be able to qualify for benefits.
The primary symptom of stenosis at any site is pain and fatigue resulting from pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.
While anti-inflammatory medications may ease symptoms, in the long run you may be better off changing your posture and the way you move. Surgery is a good option for some people with lumbar spinal stenosis. But, for some people, physical therapy can often achieve good results with fewer risks.
The physical therapist will teach you stretches and exercises that make your back muscles stronger. You may also see a chiropractor, a massage therapist, and someone who performs acupuncture. Sometimes, a few visits will help your back or neck pain. Cold packs and heat therapy may help your pain during flare-ups.
Most people have good results from surgery and are able to return to a normal lifestyle after they heal. People tend to have less leg pain and can walk better afterward. However, surgery doesn't cure arthritis or other conditions that might have caused the spinal canal to narrow in the first place.
Many people with mild spinal stenosis find that nonsurgical treatments such as pain medication and physical therapy relieve symptoms and help them remain active. NYU Langone spine specialists work with experts in pain management, rehabilitation, and orthotics to create a treatment plan.