Spinal stenosis, or the narrowing of the spinal canal, is a condition that can occur over time and cause significant pain. The condition most commonly affects the lumbar (lower) spine and the cervical spine (the neck). The chances of being diagnosed with spinal stenosis increase with age, but it can also occur in younger people with a spine injury. Since the condition and its symptoms develop over time, early intervention can help you to live more comfortably as you get older. At OrthoGeorgia, we are proud to provide comprehensive neck and back care to patients of all ages, using advanced techniques and technologies to diagnose all manner of spine conditions and injuries. Learn more about spinal stenosis below and contact the OrthoGeorgia location nearest you to meet with one of our dedicated spine specialists.
What are the Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis may not have any initial signs. When symptoms are present, they will begin gradually and slowly worsen over time. The exact symptoms you experience will depend on the area of the spine that is affected. If the lumbar spine is narrowed due to arthritis, a herniated disc, bone spurs, or age-related wear and tear, symptoms may include pain and cramping in the legs, back pain, sciatica, or numbness/weakness in the lower extremities. Symptoms of spinal stenosis of the neck (cervical spine) include neck pain, numbness in the arms or legs, weakness, and problems with balance. As mentioned above, spinal stenosis often occurs as a result of another condition causing damage to the spinal canal, so you may experience additional symptoms associated with that condition. If you are experiencing back pain and other symptoms that interfere with your daily life, we encourage you to schedule an appointment at OrthoGeorgia.
Diagnosing Spinal Stenosis at OrthoGeorgia
When you come to see one of our spine specialists at OrthoGeorgia, we will start by talking to you about your medical history. We will ask you to describe your pain and symptoms, including where they are coming from and what makes them better or worse. A physical exam for spinal stenosis often includes checks of your ability to move, your balance, and the way that you walk. The following imaging tests may also be used to reach a definitive diagnosis:
X-ray – used to diagnose various conditions of the spine related to the bones. An X-ray can distinguish spinal stenosis from other conditions such as fractures, spondylolisthesis, and disc degeneration.
MRI – used to produce detailed images of the hard and soft tissues of the spine. MRI can show damage to the discs, ligaments, and nerve roots within the back.
CT scan – useful for getting a clear picture of the bony parts of the back. This test can help your doctor detect fractures or bone changes due to osteoarthritis, which could be leading to spinal stenosis.
Treatment for Spinal Stenosis in Central GA
Non-Surgical Spinal Stenosis Treatment
If you are experiencing mild spinal stenosis symptoms, your doctor may recommend starting with conservative treatment methods. If your pain stems from osteoarthritis, the application of heat to the back can help increase blood flow and relax the muscles. Ice is another option. Applying ice to the painful area can help reduce tenderness, swelling, and inflammation. Your doctor may also recommend over-the-counter or prescription pain medications to reduce inflammation. If muscle cramps are a problem, muscle relaxants may help.
Physical Therapy for Spinal Stenosis in Central GA
Physical therapy is another non-surgical treatment option for spinal stenosis. The main goals of physical therapy for this condition are to stabilize and protect the spine, build endurance, and increase flexibility. Maintaining motion of the spine and strengthening the abdominal and back muscles are key to supporting spine health over time. Our physical therapists at OrthoGeorgia work with patients in Macon, Warner Robins, and Kathleen to address a wide range of orthopaedic conditions. If you are referred to us for your spinal stenosis treatment, we will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan. We will teach you the most comfortable ways to move and support spinal stability and also guide you on how to continue these exercises at home.
Do I Need Surgery for Spinal Stenosis?
Surgery for spinal stenosis is usually only considered once conservative treatment options have failed. When symptoms begin to severely affect your quality of life and limit your daily activities, it may be time to consider surgery. Your doctor at OrthoGeorgia will discuss your options with you and answer any questions you have along the way. The main goal of spinal stenosis surgery is to create more space within the spinal canal in order to reduce symptoms. Several procedures can accomplish this, including:
Laminectomy – a procedure during which your surgeon removes bone spurs and the bone walls of the vertebrae that are contributing to spinal stenosis. Nerve pressure is reduced when more space is made within the spinal canal.
Laminotomy – a partial laminectomy, during which the part of the lamina (a portion of the vertebrae) causing the most nerve pressure is removed.
Laminoplasty – a procedure to address stenosis of the cervical spine. The creation of a hinge on the lamina makes the space within the spinal canal bigger.
Spinal fusion – a surgical procedure that addresses age-related changes to the spine by fusing two or more vertebrae together. Spinal fusion is often performed for patients whose spines are unstable.
At OrthoGeorgia, we place a strong focus on delivering the highest quality care to our patients, a goal that extends to our surgery centers in Central Georgia. Our Ambulatory Surgery Centers are staffed with compassionate surgeons who use the latest technological advances in surgical equipment for each procedure. We will be here for you before, during, and after your surgery, with all procedures performed in a warm, caring, and safe environment.
Other Spine and Back Conditions We Treat at OrthoGeorgia
Spinal stenosis is one of many conditions and injuries that can affect the neck and back and make daily life less comfortable. We understand that back problems can have a detrimental effect on a patient’s ability to live and move comfortably, and we are dedicated to accurately diagnosing the cause of your symptoms and helping you find relief. We specialize in care for the following spine conditions, among many other orthopaedic issues in Central GA:
“I really like Dr. Brooks. I'll be honest I'm stubborn and I don't listen to a lot of people and he was right to the point with me about what I needed to do and what was happening... and it feels better now than it did 10, 15, 20 years ago it really does."
Eric Hayes, Mercer Tennis Coach & OrthoGeorgia Patient