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Symptoms for severe spinal stenosis

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:23 AM in Spinal Stenosis

This question is mainly for anyone who was diagnosed (MRI) with severe spinal stenosis and then had laminectomy surgery.

Could you tell me what your pain symptoms were before surgery? Particularly when the pain got better, worse. Did it get worse the longer you walked? Did it immediately relieve or lessen when you sat or bent forward? Or did it ever worsen upon sitting down?

Of course, tell me how surgery affected your pain, mobility, ability to resume activities, etc.

I’m interested in a variety of experiences so I hope many spinal stenosis patients reply.




  • Hiya >:D<
    Welcome to Spine Health forums :) . I hope you can enjoy this site as we all do :) , people her are friendly and helpful ;) .
    I dont think i have that problem, well nothing has ever been mentioned to me :S . Someone her will be able to help you, but only on there personal experiences :) . Check out our chat room, you can chat to people there who may have this issue, with there back! :H

    Angie x
  • Stenosis cervical or lumbar? I have cervical stenosis and had cervical fusion and a 3 level posterior cervical laminectomy. My pain came on rather suddenly, my left arm was very numb, I could hardly walk the day the symptoms came on. The first surgery was a 2 level fusion that helped with the pain and numbeness, but I still had the symptoms of myelopathy. That has left me with some numbness down my left arm and into my hand, some balance issues when walking. The second surgery was a new 2 level fusion and the 3 level laminectomy to deal with the stenosis issue. The laminectomy has helped stopped the progression of myelopathy at this time, but most of my symptoms are still with me due to the damage to my spinal cord. feel free to PM if you want. Welcome to Spine Health.

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  • Thanks for the Welcome Angie & Mark!

    Mark, I should have mentioned my stenosis is lumbar. Never had MRI of cervical spine but it probably doesn’t look good considering my severe multi-level stenosis in my lumbar spine. My pain was sudden onset as well. Although if I had had an MRI a few months b4 the pain it would have looked very bad. Stenosis doesn’t develop quickly. I asked the neurosurgeon what % of people over 50 have spinal stenosis, he said ⅓. I asked what % of those have no symptoms, he said ⅓.

    BTW, in July I had; one epidural, nerve root blocks x2 & then a week ago had facet injections x4. No help except the 1st nerve root block stopped pain completely for 48 hours while 2 weeks later the same block did nothing. I thought (& still do) that this is diagnostic! I was really hoping the facet injections would work as the results s/b seen immediately & then they can go back & kill those pesky nerves which have no motor or sensory function so you won’t “miss” them.

    I still hope that I can hear from Lumbar spinal stenosis patients regarding the specifics of their symptoms. Does anyone know of any other back pain forums?


  • I had stenosis in 2006 (T3-T7) pain in back was due to weakness in legs. Could not walk very far without having to sit down. I had laminectomy OCT 2006 in areas above. PT therapy got me back about 60% still weakness in right leg. But shed all devices(cane, walker etc) I think acute therapy and moderate excersise program is needed when you resume daily activites (POST-OP). I might have gotten back to 80-90% if I would taken PT seriously.

    fast forward 2008 the stenosis came back in the same area I now have to get surgery done again to relieve pressure off spinal cord my leg weakness is more severe now.

    Not trying to scare you. If surgery is needed, I just believe once you are done healing take PT serious. Take on outpatient rather than home therapy(a joke). Lose weight if you have to. Workout if you can. I think the answer is healthy diet and excersise once you heal from surgery.
  • Hi: I have significant spinal stenosis is At L3-4 and L-2-3 and 2-3. My pain is almost always in my legs from shutting pains to muscle tightening to weakness, tingling, burning, and sometimes paralyzing pain. This is when I am walking and moving around only or when I first sit down. Sitting or lying down I do not experience much pain just tithing in my lower back. Without medication I cannot walk because of the pain, the only way to exercise is to increase my medication. So I am trying to stay as healthy as possible while I wait to see a neurosurgeon in 6 weeks. I am not sure if this will help you with your question because I have not read on this site anyone with only leg pain due to this disease. :H
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  • You might want to read my post under "bladder control....."

    My husband has profound (severe) spinal stenosis,before and sadly after his surgery.

    His pain is concentrated in his thighs mainly.
  • As there is no further surgical help for my husband with his condition, we are looking into management of his condition.
    He takes 2 - 5 mg. Oxycondin per day, but they don't do much for his pain.

    I am wondering whether anyone out there knows anything about nerve blockers for the lumar area? Or for that matter any other alternative pain management method for a condition such as his.

    Somehow we have to get better quality of life since we have to live with this problem.

    Appreciate any help.
  • HI :H

    I have both lumbar and cervical stenosis ranging from mild to severe. The pain from the lumbar stenosis is far worse when I just stand and don't move around, i.e. standing in the kitchen cooking. Walking uphill is ok, downhill hurts. The pain is relieved when I sit down and lean forward, but just plain sitting isn't good. Sitting in bucket seats in a car is a killer.

    Now all that being said....I started PT last June (today is my last day in PT aftercare!) I learned to keep my pelvis tilted which really helps alleviate the pain. The core strengthening has been a miracle for me. I still have pain but it is liveable. I swim 2x a week and am replacing PT with a pilates class. Now I really can tell the difference in pain when I don't exercise. I guess I'm really lucky.

    I have avoided surgery with the exercising for now and want to put it off as long as possible. As a side note, the symptoms of my stenosis were so severe that I actually lost bladder control for awhile. Surprisingly it's no longer a problem!

    Good luck with whatever path you choose. I know it's hard when you hurt so bad, but try to stay positive 8>
  • I have been watching my lumbar spine degenerate for 12 years, and have had increasing stenosis for about 5 years. Numbness in the middle three toes on my left foot. Crawling tingling front and back left calf. Weakness in my left leg - hard to lift it, loss of muscle mass in left calf (wondered why my LEFT knee sock kept falling down...) Symptoms have advanced now to where when I walk I have pain shooting from my left butt to my foot, and it feels like my calf is in a vise. Oddly, sitting for long periods of time makes it worse (I sometimes have extreme pain sitting, but more often, have no pain/tingling until I get up and try to walk.) I can often "walk" through the pain, although my gait is off and I strain other muscles. I get no relief by leaning forward.

    PT, accupuncture, injections did not help. Celebrex helps, Neurontin did not. I could manage the symptoms for years using an inversion table (hang like a bat twice a day), deep water aerobics, and sitting on an inflated disk/ball, but have hit a point where nothing I do helps any more. Am scheduled for double laminectomy (L4/L5) in December. I have a spondylolisthesis which may need to be fused at some point but I am putting that off. I am also not considering the X-stop because it's really only recommended for people who get relief when they lean forward.

    Hope that helps!
  • Hi,

    I have severe lumbar spinal stenosis at L3-L4 due to a herniated disc and mild to moderate stenosis at L4-L5. At one spot, I have no disc height at all, just two vertebrae rubbing together. I also have bulging discs in other parts of my lumbar spine and had a previous fusion in my neck (C4-C5-C6) due to cervical spinal stenosis. I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease as the cause.

    I have not yet had surgery on my back but saw a neurosurgeon two days ago and was told I am a "surgical candidate" for a fusion of L3-L4-L5. The neurosurgeon said all I have to do is call him when I'm "ready" for surgery. He apparently didn't think I was ready, mentally or something, because he said I seemed nervous.

    This made me a bit angry with him and makes me wonder if I need to find a different surgeon. I would not have been sitting in a neurosurgeon's examining room unless I knew I needed surgery. What person on earth would feel "ready" for spinal fusion and not feel nervous about it? I certainly don't look forward to it like it's a party or something, but I am tired of living like this.

    Having already undergone fusion in my neck, this is not my first rodeo. I saw my lumbar MRI report and even have a copy of the scans on both film and CD. You don't have to be a doctor to know I have a serious problem. My spinal cord looks like two sausage links with a knot between the links at L3-L4.

    Due to my lumbar stenosis, I have pain that affects my lower back as well as both legs. The pain goes down the back sections of my buttocks and also involves my hips and the entirety of my thighs to my knees. If I walk a lot, the pain affects my entire legs. Sometimes I have more pain in one leg than the other. When the pain concentrates in my right leg, it's a sharp pain. Elsewhere, it usually feels like a cramp or a sting from a wasp. In my back it's more of an ache or cramp, but sometimes it feels like my back is about to explode. I cannot bend forward to touch my toes or retrieve things I've dropped.

    The pain is worse when walking or standing, and usually feels better when sitting. The pain begins after I walk only a short distance, taking perhaps 20 to 40 steps or less, and gets worse if I continue to walk or stand upright. Once the pain gets to a certain level, sitting down doesn't help. When I'm sitting, my legs often go numb, so I can't even sit for long.

    But lately I have pain all the time, waking from pain at night and waking with pain in the morning and experiencing pain even when sitting in a chair. I already took my pain meds and have been seated in my computer chair, doing nothing else since waking this morning, yet still I have pain of about 5 or 6 on a scale of 1-10.

    I made a call to a pain specialist just now to see if I could get stronger pain meds, but the nurse said the doctor usually tries things like cortisone shots and electrical stimulation. Well, maybe those would help my pain meds to work better. Note -- I don't want to say what pain meds I use because some of these forums won't let you do that.

    I became almost paralyzed by the stenosis in my neck, which was the worst at C4-C5. I also had pinched nerves at every level of my neck except C1-C2. I lost bladder control and sometimes even bowel control, long before my surgery. I also lost most of the motor skills in my hands, and one leg became difficult to control.

    Since my neck fusion surgery two years ago, I cannot say I'm perfect but I am definitely much better. I continue to have pain in my neck and shoulders, and I develop numbness in my right arm when I'm using the computer, but these are not nearly as bad as before the surgery, which I consider a success because I now function at a much higher level and can type on my keyboard almost as well as before my neck problems began. For the most part, my bladder control issues resolved immediately after surgery but I still have problems when I get very fatigued.

    The recovery of function took many months after my neck surgery, however, and two rounds of physical therapy. But now I'm able to sign my name in my usual manner or hold a pen or pencil with which to write. Before the surgery, I had lost those abilities and every other kind of "fine motor skill."

    As for my lumbar spinal stenosis, it remains untreated and seems to be getting worse on a daily basis. I've always been very active and am frustrated about all the things I am unable to do because of pain. I will probably be having surgery within the next few weeks, but I'm hoping to wait until after Christmas, if I can stand this pain that long.
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