As many as a half million Americans suffer from spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spaces inside your spine and spinal canal.
Spinal stenosis is a relatively common cause of back pain among older people, and it’s also a major reason why people in this age group wind up having back surgery.
Leading interventional pain management and spine specialist Cyril Philip, MD, has extensive experience diagnosing and treating spinal stenosis in patients at Midwest Sports and Interventional Spine in Franklin, Wisconsin.
If you have chronic back or neck pain, here’s how to tell if it might be stenosis and how Dr. Philip, who is double board-certified and Harvard-trained, can help relieve your painful symptoms.
How spinal stenosis happens
Your spinal canal is like a highway for your nerves, providing a pathway between your brain and nerves that travel to every other part of your body. Your nerves exit your spine at specific locations before traveling to your arms, legs, organs, and other parts of your body.
Normally, the spinal canal provides plenty of room for your nerves. But as you age, medical conditions like arthritis, bone spurs, or degenerative disc disease cause the space inside the canal to narrow. Over time, nerve compression develops.
Spinal stenosis symptoms
Spinal stenosis symptoms typically happen in the most mobile or flexible parts of your spine — your lumbar spine (lower back) and cervical spine (neck). The symptoms you have depend in part on where stenosis is occurring, along with the extent or severity of the condition.
Lumbar stenosis affects the nerves that exit your spine in your lower back. This type of stenosis often causes pain, numbness, or weakness that radiates into your buttocks or legs.
Cervical stenosis causes localized pain, usually accompanied by pain, numbness, or loss of coordination in your arms or hands. When you have stenosis in your neck, there’s also a danger that narrowing in this area will pinch or compress the entire spinal cord, causing far more serious and widespread symptoms.
Treating spinal stenosis
Before recommending treatment, Dr. Philip performs a complete evaluation of your spine health and your overall health. He may order diagnostic imaging to confirm the diagnosis of spinal stenosis and determine what part or parts of your spine are affected.
Many patients find symptom relief through conservative treatment options like physical therapy, lifestyle modification, and pain medicine. When conservative options don’t work, Dr. Philip often recommends minimally invasive treatments to decompress the spine, including:
Vertiflex uses an implantable device to act as a spacer between vertebrae. The device maintains space in areas that have narrowed, relieving compression on local nerves.
During this procedure, Dr. Philip makes a tiny incision over your spine, then removes stiffened ligaments that may be contributing to spinal narrowing.
Minimally invasive procedures have limited downtime and provide rapid relief of pain and other symptoms.
Don’t let chronic pain control your life
Spinal stenosis can make everyday activities excruciatingly painful. By seeking treatment early, you can learn ways to manage your symptoms and improve your overall wellness with or without surgery.
To learn how Dr. Philip can help you relieve the painful symptoms of spinal stenosis, call 262-232-7161 or book an appointment online at our Franklin, Wisconsin, office today.