Does your back pain seem to come and go, depending on what you're doing at the moment? This may be a sign of spinal stenosis.
Spinal stenosis is a back condition that's more likely to occur in men and women after age 50, and tends to worsen as the years add up. It can develop at various points along the spine. Spinal stenosis happens when the spinal canal—holding the spinal nerves and spinal cord—narrows. This narrowing puts more pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, triggering pain.
Symptoms to Know
Since this spinal canal narrowing usually occurs over many years, you may not notice it right away. Here are 6 common symptoms of spinal stenosis worth keeping an eye out for:
- Back pain comes and goes. Your pain may be severe some of the time, and mild or completely gone other times.
- Sciatica symptoms. You may have radiating numbness, a pins-and-needles feeling, tingling, or weakness from the low back to the buttocks and legs.
- Different positions and exercises cause pain. Walking, riding a bike, or just standing upright may set off muscle cramps and pain in the legs or back. The pain may flare up with even a brief amount of physical activity.
- Other positions relieve pain. Sitting, lying down, or shifting yourself forward may ease the pain, because these positions give the nerves some extra room.
- The pain goes away slowly. It often takes a few minutes of rest for the pain to stop.
- Slight changes make a big difference. You feel significant relief when you lean forward a little, such as with a shopping cart handle, or on bike handlebars.
If these symptoms sound familiar, check with your doctor, since spinal stenosis may get worse without treatment.
Treatment for Spinal Stenosis
There is no cure for spinal stenosis, but several treatments can help manage symptoms. Your doctor may advise imaging tests to find out the location of the problem and pinpoint treatment.
Physical therapy, targeted exercises, medications, and pain-relief injections are often helpful. If these approaches don't work, surgery may be recommended.