Is Spinal Stenosis Causing Your Chronic Back Pain?

About 80% of women and men in the US have had at least one episode of back pain, according to the National Institutes of Health, and you’ve had far more than that. In fact, it’s hard to remember a time when your back didn’t ache. 

At the Ohio Institute for Comprehensive Pain Management in Centerville, Ohio, Dr. Mervet Saleh and her team are dedicated to providing relief for your back pain. Though back pain can be caused by many different conditions, one of the most common reasons for pain in your lower back — especially as you age — is spinal stenosis.

What happens as your spine ages

Back pain usually originates in the lower part of your spine, known as the lumbar spine, which is made up of five large vertebrae, stacked one on top of the other. Each vertebra is made up of a large bony disc and two facet joints. The facet joints connect the vertebrae to one another, allowing you to move your spine.

The vertebrae also protect your spinal cord, which runs through a canal in the center of the stacked vertebrae. Over time, the canal can narrow because of arthritis or other conditions, so the spinal cord doesn’t have as much space as it did when you were younger.

The narrowed spinal canal, known as spinal stenosis, puts pressure on your spinal cord and also on the spinal nerve roots. Spinal stenosis causes symptoms such as:

Not everyone who has spinal stenosis experiences symptoms. However, about 95% of women and men aged 50 or more have degenerative changes in the spine. Although most cases of spinal stenosis occur after age 60, some women and men may have congenital spinal stenosis that causes symptoms between the ages of 30 and 50. 

What causes spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis is usually caused by arthritis. As you age, the rubbery, shock-absorbing discs that separate your vertebrae begin to lose water content and shrink. As the discs narrow and degenerate, the facet joints in your vertebrae start to bear the weight of your entire body, which puts pressure on the bones and may make them grind against one another.

When your bones grind against one another, it degrades the cartilage that protects your facet joints. Your body then produces more bone, to make up for the lost cartilage, resulting in bony protrusions called bone spurs. Bone spurs narrow your spinal column.

Other causes of spinal stenosis include:

Diagnosing spinal stenosis

When you come to Ohio Institute for Comprehensive Pain Management with back pain, be sure to let Dr. Saleh know about any other symptoms you have, too. To determine if you have spinal stenosis, she conducts a series of tests, including:

She may order other studies to determine if your nerves are being impinged by the narrowed spinal canal and to check for other conditions that could be causing your pain.

Treating spinal stenosis

If Dr. Saleh diagnoses spinal stenosis, she designs a treatment plan based on the condition of your vertebrae, discs, and nerves. She may combine a number of treatment options, including:

When Dr. Saleh administers spinal injections, she uses fluoroscopy — a special type of X-ray — to guide the needle. Fluoroscopic guidance ensures that you get the medication where you need it most.

To find out why you have chronic back pain and get relief, call us during office hours, or book a spinal stenosis consultation online. 

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