Answers to Common Spine Health Questions

Premier Physician Network’s doctors answer frequently asked questions about spine health.

What is spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spine in one or more of three places, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

As people age, the spine changes from normal wear-and-tear, which leads to the painful condition, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic SurgeonsOff Site Icon (AAOS).

Spinal stenosis usually occurs in the lower back or neck, and is the cause of osteoarthritis, according to the AAOS.

Learn more about spinal stenosis by talking to your doctor.

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What are the symptoms of spinal stenosis?

Common symptoms of spinal stenosis, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic SurgeonsOff Site Icon (AAOS), can include:

  • Back pain
  • Burning pain through the butt or legs, known as sciatica
  • Numbness or tingling in the butt or legs
  • Pain the lessens when leaning forward or sitting
  • Weakness in the legs

Only one type of spinal stenosis – called cauda equine syndrome – causes other symptoms and can be serious, according to the NIH. If you have the following symptoms, call your doctor right away:

  • Inability to control the bladder or bowel
  • Pain, weakness or loss of feeling in one or both legs
  • Problems having sex

Talk to your doctor for more information about symptoms of spinal stenosis.

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Who is at risk of developing spinal stenosis?

While anyone can get spinal stenosis, some people are at a higher risk for the condition.

The risk of developing spinal stenosis, according to the American College of RheumatologyOff Site Icon (ACR), is increased in:

  • People born with a narrow spinal cord
  • Females
  • People 50 and older
  • People who have had a spinal injury or spine surgery

Spinal stenosis also can be caused by some medical conditions. According to the ACR, those include:

  • Inflammatory spondyloarthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Paget’s disease
  • Spinal tumors

For more information about who is at risk of developing spinal stenosis, talk with your doctor.

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What are surgical and non-surgical treatment options for spinal stenosis?

A variety of treatment options are available for spinal stenosis.

The following are non-surgical treatment options, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH):

  • Wearing back brace
  • Limiting your activity
  • Exercising through physical therapy
  • Using medicines to reduce or relieve pain

Most doctors will try some of these non-surgical options as a first step to treating spinal stenosis. Some doctors also might recommend alternative treatment options, including chiropractic treatment or acupuncture, according to the NIH.

Surgical treatment might be recommended to treat spinal stenosis, according to the NIH, if you have:

  • Bowel and bladder function problems
  • Nervous symptom problems
  • Symptoms that cause problems walking

If surgery is needed, the American Academy of Orthopaedic SurgeonsOff Site Icon (AAOS) states there are two main surgical options to treat spinal stenosis:

  • Laminectomy – This removes the bone, bone spurs and ligaments that are compressing the nerves in the spine.
  • Spinal fusion – this treatment will decompress and stabilize the spine if arthritis has caused spinal instability

Talk to your doctor for more information about treatment options for spinal stenosis.

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What is cervical degenerative disc disease?

Dr. Neal Mehan discusses cervical degenerative disc disease. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Cervical degenerative disc disease is a condition that happens as we age.

Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians say the disease occurs when we lose water content in our discs, which makes them become rigid over time.

Being rigid makes discs more likely to suffer an injury. They can also lose height, become compressed, and pinch the spinal cord or the nerves in the spine.

Talk to your doctor for more information about cervical degenerative disc disease.

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What are the symptoms of cervical degenerative disc disease?

Dr. Neal Mehan discusses symptoms of cervical degenerative disc disease. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Symptoms of cervical degenerative disc disease can vary.

You could experience a pinched nerve that causes radiculopathy, which is a pain, numbness, or tingling in your arms, Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians say.

You might also have a pinching of the spinal cord, which can cause you to have trouble walking.

For more information about the symptoms of cervical degenerative disc disease, talk with your doctor. 

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Who is at greater risk for developing cervical degenerative disc disease?

Dr. Neal Mehan discusses who is at risk for cervical degenerative disc disease. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Some people are at greater risk of developing cervical degenerative disc disease than others.

Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians say smoking increases your risk of getting the disease. Having a traumatic injury, such as a car accident, in your past can also increase your risk.

Talk to your doctor for more information about who is at greater risk for developing cervical degenerative disc disease. 

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How is cervical degenerative disc disease treated?

Dr. Neal Mehan discusses treatment for cervical degenerative disc disease. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

When cervical degenerative disc disease is less severe, it can be managed with physical therapy.

If you have a more severe version of the disease, surgical options are available that can help to decompress your nerves and spinal cord, Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians say.

For more information about how degenerative disc disease is treated, talk to your doctor.

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Thanks to Premier Physician Network’s doctors for answering these common questions about spine health:

Additional Resources

This website provides general medical information that should be used for informative and educational purposes only. Information found here should not be used as a substitute for the personal, professional medical advice of your physician. Do not begin any course of treatment without consulting a physician.

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