What is spinal stenosis?
The spine is designed to turn and twist. The column of bones that make up the vertebrae are connected to nerves that bring signals from the brain to the rest of the body. Spinal stenosis is a condition where the spinal column compresses and starts pinching these nerves.
Symptoms of the condition
Many people with the condition experience leg pain and weakness, lower back pain, numbness, and balance problems. Often the symptoms worsen while standing or walking and get better when sitting down.
Causes of spinal stenosis
Unfortunately, the most prevalent cause of spinal stenosis is merely aging. However, certain conditions can raise a person’s risk of developing the condition. Some of these include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, as these conditions cause inflammation that can put pressure on the spine. Scoliosis, a naturally narrow spinal cord, or spinal birth defects can also contribute.
What is sciatica?
Sciatica refers to the pain that occurs along the sciatic nerve. This nerve runs from the lower back, through the hips and buttocks, and down the back of each leg. For most people, the pain only occurs on one side of the body.
The main symptom of sciatica is pain that radiates from the lower back down through the back of the leg. The level of pain can vary, from mild aching to a sharp, burning feeling. Sometimes the pain feels sudden, like an electric shock. For some people, the pain worsens when straining suddenly, such as while coughing or sneezing. Some people may also experience numbness or tingling in the affected leg.
Causes of sciatica
This condition occurs when something happens in the body to compress the sciatic nerve. This could be a herniated disc, bone spur in the spine, or spinal stenosis. Risk factors also include aging, obesity, diabetes, and sitting for prolonged periods.
The treatment for spinal stenosis can vary based on the patient’s age and severity of symptoms. For some, spinal stenosis can be relieved with pain relievers, physical therapy, or steroid injections. In other cases, a decompression procedure or surgery may be needed. Common surgeries to treat spinal stenosis include a laminectomy, laminotomy, and laminoplasty. For patients with sciatica, medication, stretching, rest, or hot and cold therapy may relieve symptoms. In other cases, a discectomy or laminectomy may be needed.
Speak with a healthcare provider
Chronic leg pain is common. Fortunately, there are treatment options. Speak with a healthcare provider or pain management specialist to learn more about spinal stenosis, sciatica, and managing chronic leg pain.