What does the spinal stenosis feel like?
Spinal stenosis usually develops slowly over a long period of time. This is because the main cause of spinal stenosis is spinal degeneration in later life. Symptoms rarely develop quickly when degeneration is the source of the problem. A severe injury or a herniated disc may cause symptoms to develop immediately.
Patients with stenosis don't always feel back pain. Primarily, they have severe pain and weakness in their legs, usually in both legs at the same time. Some people say they feel that their legs are going to give out on them.
Symptoms mainly affect sensation in the lower limbs. Nerve pressure from stenosis can cause a feeling of pins and needles in the skin where the spinal nerves travel. Reflexes become slowed. Some patients report charley horses in their leg muscles. Others report strange sensations like water trickling down their legs.
Symptoms change with the position of the low back. Flexion (bending forward) widens the spinal canal and usually eases symptoms. That's why people with stenosis tend to get relief when they sit down or curl up to sleep. Activities such as reaching up, standing, and walking require the spine to straighten or even extend(bend back slightly). This position of the low back makes the spinal canal smaller and often worsens symptoms.
How do health care providers diagnose the problem?
Diagnosis begins with a complete history and physical examination. When you visit ProActive Rehab, our physiotherapist will ask questions about your symptoms and how your problem is affecting your daily activities. This will include questions about your pain or if you have feelings of numbness or weakness in your legs. We will also want to know whether your symptoms are worse when you're standing up or walking and if they go away when you sit down, as this helps us to rule in or our other conditions.
Our physiotherapist will do a physical examination to see which back movements cause pain or other symptoms. Your skin sensation, muscle strength, and reflexes will also be tested. Gait analysis and other special clinical tests can also be done.
Some patients may be referred to a doctor for further diagnosis. Once your diagnostic examination is complete, the physiotherapists at ProActive Rehab have treatment options that will help speed your recovery, so that you can more quickly return to your active lifestyle.
ProActive Rehab provides services for physiotherapy in Huntsville.