Recognizing and understanding common and not so common neck and low back spinal Stenosis symptoms can help in getting an early diagnosis and beginning a preventative treatment plan. Symptoms develop when the spinal canal begins to narrow. The nerve roots become compressed/pinched causing:
- Neural irritation
The low back and neck are commonly affected by this age-related and progressive disorder. Symptoms can inhibit the ability to move without discomfort, pain, and neurological issues like tingling sensations and numbness that spreads out or radiates into other parts of the body.
Low Back Spinal Stenosis Symptoms
The most common symptom of spinal Stenosis is pain in the:
- Low back
- Buttock area
- Back of the thigh that gets worse when standing and walking
These symptoms are called neurogenic claudication. Some individuals with low back spinal stenosis experience symptoms only when standing or moving/walking around. Discomfort usually eases up when bent forward and goes away when the individual sits down. Example: Grocery shopping feels a lot better when leaning forward on the handle of the cart, with pain reduced. This is common for people with spinal stenosis in the low back. Pain that goes away and reduces when bending forward, sitting down, or lying down is common of low back spinal Stenosis.
Understanding that claudication is not neurogenic or pseudo claudication is important. The symptoms of claudication are similar to pseudo claudication, however, the cause is different. Claudication is caused by the blood not circulating properly in the leg muscles. Other symptoms are low back pain and low back spreading pain or radiculopathy.
Better known as sciatica, lumbar radiculopathy involves:
- Tingling/numbing sensations that travel down from the low back into the buttock/s and leg/s.
Some individuals experience pain in both legs, with one leg having worse pain than the other.
There can be severe cases of lumbar spinal Stenosis where the nerves that control the bladder or bowel can get compressed, leading to partial or complete incontinence. If there are problems controlling the bladder or bowel seek immediate medical attention.
Neck Spinal Stenosis Symptoms
Spinal Stenosis symptoms in the neck can cause cervical radiculopathy. This can include pain along with:
- Tingling sensations
These symptoms may radiate downward from your neck into one or both shoulders, arms, and/or hands. The pain caused by cervical spinal Stenosis has been described as:
The intensity can go from mild to severe along with other symptoms that include:
- Balance issues with a higher risk of falling
- Fine Motor skills like writing, buttoning up a shirt/blouse, computer keyboarding skills can become affected
With severe cervical spinal stenosis, symptoms can be associated with cervical myelopathy. Cervical myelopathy happens when the spinal canal narrows so much that it compresses the spinal cord in the neck. Pinched nerves in the neck can affect the shoulders, arms, and hands. Myelopathy can affect both the arms and legs.
Symptoms of cervical myelopathy can include:
- Neck pain
- Tingling sensations
- Balance issues
- Difficulty walking
- Bowel and Bladder problems
- Sexual dysfunction
Symptoms Don’t Always Present
Imaging studies like MRI and CT scans can detect a spinal disorder from an individual that has no symptoms. This is why imaging tests are performed to confirm a diagnosis. This is supported by results from the physical/ neurological exams, medical history, and symptoms.
Those who have undergone an x-ray or other imaging test for a non-spinal related issue could have discovered they have spondylosis, osteophytes, and a herniated disc. However, they never knew it because they showed no symptoms. Spinal Stenosis of the spine is usually an age-related and gradual process of physical change. It can take time for symptoms to show themselves. If you have neck or low back pain symptoms that are becoming worse, speak with your doctor.
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