Anje Kim, MD, is board-certified in neurological surgery and fellowship-trained in neurosurgery of the spine. She treats a broad range of spine conditions, from simple to complex.
Spinal stenosis: What’s that? Many people have never heard of this condition at all — yet it’s surprisingly common. In fact, it’s one of the most common reasons that people end up visiting a spine surgeon.
How do you know if spinal stenosis could be causing your back pain? Let’s take a look at the causes and symptoms of this treatable condition.
What is Spinal Stenosis?
Running from head to tail, the backbone is a long tube that protects the spinal cord. Spinal stenosis occurs when the spine narrows, pinching the nerves and spinal cord within.
Sometimes, this occurs suddenly due to an injury such as a slipped disc. But more often, the condition develops over time as a result of aging.
Unfortunately, we can’t predict who will develop spinal stenosis. It can strike otherwise healthy people, with or without a family history of the problem. It can occur in people who are physically active, and those who sit at a desk all day. We do know, though, that it’s most common in people over 50.
Spinal Stenosis Symptoms
Many things can cause back pain, so how do you know if spinal stenosis might be to blame? The classic early symptom is pain in the neck or back that radiates down the limbs. As the spine continues to narrow, people develop numbness, tingling and weakness in the arms and legs.
Sometimes, back spasms can cause pain in the limbs. But if you have persistent pain that spreads into your arms or legs, you should see your doctor.
Fortunately, most primary care doctors are very familiar with spinal stenosis. They can diagnose and effectively treat the condition, especially at early stages. If more intervention is necessary, your doctor can refer you to a back specialist.
Treating Spinal Stenosis
When we catch the condition early, we can often slow its progression. If you’ve been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, it’s important to reduce the stress on your backbone. Limit bending and twisting, and avoid lifting heavy objects.
Anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen can help alleviate pain, and oral steroids can reduce inflammation. If that doesn’t do the trick, a steroid injection can help tame inflammation along the spinal cord.
When medications aren’t enough, surgery is a good option. During decompression surgery, we free up the space inside the spine to relieve the pressure on the nerves.
Spinal decompression surgery is one of the most rewarding types of surgery I perform. That’s because it has a low risk of complications, and it is so effective at relieving symptoms.
Back pain is both common and debilitating. If you suffer from neck or back pain, help is available. Learn more about the Inova Spine program. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Kim, call 703-970-2670.