Spinal stenosis symptoms are fairly easy for a spine specialist to recognize,
but for your doctor to accurately diagnose you, explaining your symptoms in as much detail as possible can be incredibly helpful. Symptoms typically arise in response to some form of nerve compression, with pressure placed on either the spinal cord or one of its nerve roots. Nerve compression can be caused by many other anatomical abnormalities in the spine, so carefully documenting your exact symptoms is essential in helping determine the cause of the stenosis, or narrowing, within your spinal column.
The discomfort you experience won’t be exactly the same as another patient with spinal stenosis, but there are a few general symptoms that may indicate restriction of the spinal canal (the space through which the spinal cord travels) or foraminal canals (the lateral intervertebral channels created by two stacked vertebrae through which spinal nerve roots travel).
Typically, spinal canal constriction in the neck or back could lead to:
- Difficulty picking up or holding objects
- Numbness or weakness in the upper or lower extremities
- Leg pain and cramping in the legs after long periods of standing or walking, which may decrease by sitting down or bending forward
- Paralysis from the point of compression down; usually in severe cases only
Constriction of one or more foraminal canals in the neck or back could result in the following spinal stenosis symptoms that radiate, or travel down the arms or legs:
- Muscle weakness and spasticity
Carefully documenting the frequency, intensity, and location of your symptoms can provide your doctor with the information he or she needs to help ascertain a spinal stenosis diagnosis.
Managing Your Discomfort
Once your doctor confirms that your symptoms are caused by spinal stenosis, he or she can help you formulate a treatment plan to help alleviate your pain. Your doctor will likely recommend that you try several conservative, nonsurgical therapies to begin your treatment plan. These treatments might include pain medication, physical therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), stretching, and other methods. In all likelihood, your symptoms will decrease over a period of weeks or months.