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Just diagnosed today - Questions!

hi there,

I am a 21 year old female who is quite healthy apart from a slight b12 deficiency. I was referred to a neurologist about a month ago when I complained to my primary care physician about occasional numbness and/or painful tingling in my lower legs and feet. I also told her I had considerable difficulty emptying my bladder (often having it take about an hour to do so completely). She sent me to have an MRI of my entire spine, and today I was given the results. She said there were “mild degenerative changes” in my lumbar spine, which I guess is what it is, but what troubled me most was that she said there was some foraminal narrowing in my C3-5 vertebrae. I have only heard of this occurring in patients who are a few decades older than myself. Is this common in someone my age? The nurse who relayed this news to me just kept saying “this can happen with aging” but I’m not entirely convinced she checked in re: what my age actually IS before talking with me.

Am I going to need surgery? Can I just ignore this? I’m very confused and unsure of what to do from here.

Any insight or information would be so appreciated…. especially regarding stenosis and the bladder issues I am describing. I'm just a little lost right now...

(Also, I'm surprised this is the case in conjunction with the b12 issue. I'm not *deficient* but my numbers are on the lower side)

Thank you for reading this!



  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    edited 09/30/2013 - 8:42 PM
    I am sure that you will find your time on Spine-Health very rewarding. This site is a powerful and integrated system that is dynamic and continues to grow.
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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • Difficulty emptying your bladder or bowels , can be related to many causes, but also can be related to your spine as well. Each pair of nerves exit between each vertebral level, and innervates a different area of your body. There is a map called a dermatome map that helps you to see what nerves at what spinal level are effected in each area of your body. The issue with the spinal nerves is that damage to one level can effect each level below the area that is damaged, so if I were you, I would get a copy of that report and visit with a board certified spine surgeon and explain your symptoms to the doctor and see what he suggests. Ignoring it is not the answer.
  • I am relatively young (42) as well... I just had what is called ACDF surgery on C5-c6 because the narrowing had gotten to the point of severe and I was losing strength in my left arm and was in terrible pain. It sounds as if you are not at the severe stage yet and I suggest you do what you can to treat your stenosis with physical therapy before it gets worse. There are specific exercises that you can do to counteract this. Boy I wish I had done them when I was your age. Sports medicine docs can help you!
  • A lot of people seem to think that you have to be a senior citizen before you develop back problems like stenosis. I don't know if it's common or not in young people but I began feeling strange sensations and pain in my right leg at 26 years old. I have been seen by 10 different doctors and had 4 MRI's done before my latest doctor finally said that I have spinal stenosis. Back then the doctors didn't know much about it so even all the MRIs showed narrowing of the spine, none of them knew what was causing the pain. Finally the last primary Dr I was seeing at the time sent me to a neurosurgeon who said my condition is congenital. That explains why I began having these problems at such an early age. Microdiscetomy and laminotomy/foramenotomy fixed it and the pain was gone. Pain came back 6 years later on the left side this time. 4 years later pain got so bad I could stand for only a few minutes before it became unbearable so I'm back in the hospital getting 2 full laminectomys. L4 and L5. I just hit the 6 week mark post surgery and I feel fantastic. So hang in there, stenosis is more common than you think, and the doctors have come a long way in diagnosing and treating it. But if you are having bowel and/or bladder problems, that could be serious and needs to be addressed. Like Sandi said, have it checked out by a dr., Have an MRI taken and reviewed by a neurosurgeon or neurologist. They will pinpoint the problem and get you fixed up.
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