The spinal stenosis symptoms may or may not be felt, and it will only occur if spinal stenosis exerts pressure on the spinal cord, cauda equine or the nerve roots. Spinal stenosis symptoms may develop gradually or rapidly.

The gradual onset of the symptoms of spinal stenosis is because of the wear and tear of the muscles, calcification of ligaments in the spine, degeneration of muscle, or bone problems.

The rapid onset may be due to an accident such as fall, whiplash injury, or forced trauma.

General spinal stenosis symptomsSpinal stenosis symptoms

Symptoms of spinal stenosis vary according to the region involved; however, there are certain general symptoms also. Some of these are :

  • Pain radiating to the shoulders and extremities.
  • Pain in the hips.
  • Pain in the affected spine.
  • Numbness or tingling sensation.
  • Cramps.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle weakness and stiffness.
  • Dropping of objects.

The symptoms of spinal stenosis may be felt in the cervical or lumbar region of the back.

Lumbar spinal stenosis symptoms

1. Hip or Lower Back Pain

The low back pain only worsens when you try to walk, lean back or stand straight. The pain is alleviated when you lean forward or sit down.

2. Claudication

Claudication is defined as leg pain brought about by walking. The claudication caused by spinal stenosis is neurogenic in nature. Claudication will normally go away immediately after you stop walking, but with spinal stenosis, it is relieved after a few minutes of sitting down.

3. Numbness or Pain in the Buttocks

Many individuals categorize this spinal stenosis symptom as pins and needles sensation. These symptoms will occur when you are walking or standing upright. It will be relieved when you rest.

4. No Control of Bowel and Bladder

This symptom of spinal stenosis may occur in severe cases. This is because of the weakness in the legs caused by compression of the nerves in the lumbar spine. This can lead to incontinence.

5. Loss of Sexual Function

The loss of sexual function is caused by the compression of nerves in the spine. The compression leads to the loss of function of the legs which leads to loss of sexual function.

Cervical spinal stenosis symptoms

1. Clumsiness in Typing or Writing

This symptom of spinal stenosis is brought about by the numbness experienced in the hands. The muscles in your palms and fingers are weakened as well, this can also lead to difficulty in picking up and letting go of objects.

2. Weakness in the Shoulders

This symptom will slowly cause atrophy of the shoulder muscles because of the lack of nerve impulses. The muscles affected are the deltoid, shoulder blade muscles and neck muscles.

3. Numbness or Weakness in the Legs

These symptoms usually increase the tendency of a person to slip or fall. Pressure in the spinal nerve causes these numbness or weakness. The numbness or weakness may also be felt as jerkiness or spasticity.

4. Balance and Coordination Problems

These spinal stenosis symptoms may be crippling and occurs when the spinal cord is damaged. A person may not know that he or she is raising his or her hands unless he or she sees it.

5. Bladder and Bowel Hesitancy

Usually, the pressure on the spinal cord causes an urge in the person to urinate or to defecate but in the cervical spinal stenosis it is difficult for a person to have a normal urine flow. In the severe cases of spinal stenosis, the person cannot voluntarily control his or her bladder and bowel, thus, incontinence happens.

Spinal stenosis symptoms that need immediate action

  • Problems with balance and coordination.
  • Involuntary bladder and bowel movements.
  • Loss of sensation in extremities or limbs.
  • Weakness of the arms and legs.
  • Paraplegia or weakness in one side of the body.
  • Difficulty with sexual intercourse.

When these symptoms occur, bring the patient to the nearest emergency room. These symptoms are brought about by the inflammation in the spine. When the inflammation is not immediately treated, it can cause permanent nerve damage.

Which spinal stenosis symptoms should prompt you to consult your physician?

If you are suffering from pain in lower or upper extremities that is associated with neurologic symptoms, then try answering the following questions :

  1. Are there certain activities that bring pain?
  2. Do you have frequent leg pains?
  3. Does walking result in pain or discomfort?
  4. Does sitting down lessen or alleviate the pain?
  5. Do you experience numbness or pins and needles in your legs or hands?

If the majority of your answers to the questions are yes, then you should consult your doctor. You may be suffering from spinal stenosis symptoms. But, you have to remember that not all back and leg pains are caused due to spinal stenosis. You cannot jump to the conclusion that you are suffering from a certain disease. Consult your physician first and he will take diagnostic actions to confirm spinal stenosis.

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Filed under: Spinal Stenosis