Severe Spinal Stenosis

You are more at risk for severe spinal stenosis if you ignore your symptoms.  Severe spinal stenosis can be extremely painful and can be the cause of more serious spinal conditions.  Symptoms may not even surface for mild spinal stenosis; therefore, severe spinal stenosis can set in without you realizing it.  It is important that if you do develop pain to contact a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Severe Spinal Stenosis Symptoms

The symptoms that you experience will depend on where the narrowing of the spine is occurring.  In mild cases, discomfort in the neck, back, and/or legs can be a sign.  In more severe cases of cervical stenosis, you could lose the ability to control your bowels or bladder, also called incontinence.  You can also experience weakness or paralysis when the stenosis is located in the cervical area.

In the lumbar area, a rare, but serious condition can cause numbness and paralysis.  This condition is cauda equine syndrome, which involves the compression of the bundle of nerve roots at the lower end of the spinal cord.

Cauda Equine Syndrome

Your spinal cord ends near the first lumbar vertebra in the lower back.  This forms the conus medullaris.  There is a fibrous extension of the spinal cord, which is called the filum terminale.  A bundle of nerve roots is located just below the conus medullaris.  This bunch of nerves is called the cauda equina.

Compression or inflammation of this bunch of nerves is cauda equina syndrome.  This is a serious condition in the lower portion of the spinal canal.  This syndrome can require emergency surgery.  If left untreated, this syndrome can lead to permanent loss of bowel and bladder control, as well as permanent paralysis in your legs.

Severe Spondylosis

This is the presence of advanced spinal degeneration in your cervical, thoracic, or lumbar spine segments.  Severe spondylosis symptoms include:

  • Back and neck pain
  • Bone on bone friction
  • Hunching over while standing or walking
  • Radiating pain that travels along a nerve
  • Muscle weakness or fatigue
  • Stiffness in muscles
  • Reduced reflexes or motor skills
  • Numbness or tingling sensation in your extremities
  • Sciatica

Regardless of the cause, spinal conditions can be diagnosed through tests that your doctor can order.  A MRI or CT scan may be required.  This will determine the severity of your condition in order to create a treatment plan that will work for you.

Should you have Surgery?

In many cases of severe spinal stenosis, surgery is required.  However, in the majority of mild cases, surgery is not generally necessary.    If you are in the latter stages of spinal stenosis and are experiencing a lot of pain, surgery may be your only option.  However, your doctor will not even consider it until all non-surgical options have been tried without success.

Emergency surgery may be scheduled if you have numbness or weakness that inhibits daily activities, such as walking and/or bowel and bladder function.  While surgery is an option, it is not full proof.  While this is the only way to permanently alter spinal stenosis, there are times when surgery simply does not work to relieve severe spinal stenosis pain.

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One Response to Severe Spinal Stenosis

  1. Janet Ondek says:

    11 mos. S/P double/laminectomy for “severe spinal stenosis” – primary totally disabling symptom pre-surgery was severe right leg pain which was relieved by surgery; however, post-surgical severe weakness in lower back with inability to stand to do ADLs… feels as though spine cannot support standing still to do such mandane tasks as washing dishes… Surgeon remarked pre-surgery: “… would like to avoid “spinal fusion”… What I have read on-line confirms that I definitely needed and would have benefitted from spinal fusion at time of double laminectomy; I am now, for all intents and purposes, an “invalid” and am scared to death that I will never recover… I often pray for God to take me while I sleep… I am severely depressed and feel hopeless. My only sister died in November 2011, following a self-determined battle with Stage 4 colon cancer (at time of diagnosis ~ 3 years ago). I would have died so that she could live as she had so much to live for; and, I had no reason to live. I could not even go to her funeral (which her Primary Doctor did attend), because I wasn’t even able to perform the most basic ADLs. In short, I would have given my life if she could have had her’s. She fought the bravest battle I have ever known. Life IS unfair. She had EVERYTHING to live for; I have nothing worth suffering a meaningless & empty existence. I didn’t mean to wander off on a tangent. The only intervention my Doctor is planning to perform is a “rhizotomy”… severing the sensory nerves, which will then grow back, necessitating a repeat of that the procedure.

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