Chronic back pain can make it difficult or impossible to do the things you need to do or even to enjoy the things you want to do. Two common causes of chronic pain are spinal stenosis and herniated discs. Effective treatments exist for both conditions so with proper care, recovery is possible.
At Steel City Spine and Orthopedic Centers, our team of experts, led by Dr. Jocelyn Idema, offer independent medical evaluations to help you identify the cause of your pain. Whether it’s a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, or something else, we may be able to suggest an intervention and treatment plan to ease your pain.
All about spinal stenosis
Spinal stenosis is when your spinal canal, the tunnel that your nerves run through, begins to narrow. The narrowing can compress the nerves, causing numbness, pain, and other symptoms. It’s generally classified as either primary or acquired.
Primary spinal stenosis
Over time, your spinal canal may begin to narrow as a result of use and age. This is primary spinal stenosis and is common, but often people don’t know it’s happening until it becomes painful.
Acquired spinal stenosis
Acquired spinal stenosis describes spinal narrowing that occurs because of an underlying condition, such as degenerative disc disease or a herniated disc. It can also be caused by trauma to your spine such as you might experience during a car accident or fall.
All about herniated discs
In your spine are rubbery discs that protect your vertebra by absorbing the shocks of your movements and keep the spinal joints from rubbing together. Too much pressure on these discs can push them outward and cause the gel-like center to leak out. The disc’s center can press on surrounding nerves, causing pain and other symptoms.
Your spine is made up of vertebrae and between each one there’s a donut-shaped, rubbery disc filled with a gel-like substance. These discs absorb shock and to prevent the vertebrae from rubbing against each other.
When there’s too much pressure on a disc, or when the rubbery outside tissue becomes worn, thin, or damaged, the gel substance can all squish to one side. This is called herniation. Discs can also rupture, allowing the gel to leak out.
Both spinal stenosis and a herniated disc can cause several types of symptoms, depending on where the disc is located or where your spinal canal is narrowing, and which nerves are being compressed. Common symptoms include:
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of balance
- Difficulties walking
- Pins and needles sensations
Even when the underlying problem is in your spine, because the nerves in your spinal column run to all different parts of your body, you may experience these symptoms just about anywhere. The most common areas people feel symptoms are the back, legs, neck, and buttocks.
One of the reasons it’s important to seek medical care when you have symptoms is to identify the source of the problem. Although there are effective treatments for both a herniated disc and for spinal stenosis, we need to determine which problem to treat.
If you suspect you have either spinal stenosis or a herniated disc, or you’re experiencing the symptoms above, schedule an appointment at any of the three locations of Steel City Spine. We can help you understand the source of your symptoms and suggest treatments.