Is Spinal Stenosis Causing Your Chronic Back Pain?

Back pain is one of the most common reasons for calling in sick to work, and it accounts for more than 264 million lost work days every year — that’s two full work days for everyone in the country who works full-time. If you are one of the millions of Americans suffering from chronic back pain, you’re probably searching for a long-term solution. 

If you’re experiencing chronic back pain and you live or work in the Washington, DC, or Arlington, Virginia, areas, the highly experienced orthopedic team at International Spine, Pain & Performance Center can help. We diagnose the underlying cause of your back pain, which could be spinal stenosis — a common cause of back pain, especially as you get older. 

A narrowing spinal canal often comes with age

As you get older, it’s not uncommon for your spinal canal to narrow as a result of wear-and-tear and other conditions associated with aging and back pain. This narrowing of the spinal canal is called spinal stenosis

Your lower (lumbar) spine is made up of five large vertebrae stacked on top of each other. Each of the vertebra contains a large, bony disc and two facet joints. The facet joints connect your vertebrae and make your spine flexible so you can move easily. 

Your vertebrae also protect your spinal cord, which runs through a canal in the center of the stacked vertebrae. Over time, the canal may narrow as a result of arthritis or other degenerative conditions. As a result, your spinal cord no longer has as much space as it once did.

When you have spinal stenosis, the narrower spinal canal puts pressure on your spinal cord and also on the spinal nerve roots. As a result, you end up with lower back pain or neck pain and symptoms, including:

Not everyone who has spinal stenosis experiences these symptoms. You can get spinal stenosis in your upper (cervical) spine or your lumbar spine, and it’s possible to have both types at the same time. 

Spinal stenosis is often the result of osteoarthritis and bone spurs

As you get older, the rubbery, shock-absorbing discs that separate your vertebrae begin to lose water content and shrink. This condition, osteoarthritis, is the most common cause of spinal stenosis. 

As your 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 in your lower spine, and may make them grind against each other.

Bone-on-bone grinding degrades the cartilage that protects your facet joints. Your body responds by producing more bone to make up for the lost cartilage, resulting in bone spurs, which also contribute to the narrowing of your spinal column.

Other causes of spinal stenosis include:

Disc degeneration along with bone spurs can significantly narrow your spinal column until you’re in pain nearly all the time. 

Is spinal stenosis causing your chronic back pain?

Here at International Spine, Pain & Performance Center, we leave no stone unturned when it comes to diagnosing the underlying causes of your chronic back pain. The team conducts a series of tests based on your symptoms and the location of your back pain. To determine if spinal stenosis is at the root of your discomfort, you may undergo a series of tests, including any of the following:

The goal of these studies is to determine the extent of spinal stenosis and to see if any nerves in your spinal cord are being impinged by the narrowed spinal canal. For many people, it’s a combination of degenerative issues that lead to chronic back pain. 

Spinal stenosis treatment

If spinal stenosis is a contributing factor of your back pain, your doctor designs a treatment plan based on the condition of your vertebrae, discs, and nerves. Your personalized treatment plan may include any combination of therapies, including:

In severe cases of spinal stenosis, when nonsurgical treatments fail to provide long-term pain relief, the expert team may recommend surgery to take the pressure off your nerves and open up space within your spinal column. 

When managing your back pain at home doesn’t deliver relief from chronic discomfort, it’s time to find out if spinal stenosis is one of the underlying causes. If it is, professional treatment can help.

Give us a call today at the location that’s most convenient for you, or book an appointment online anytime. 

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