Spinal Stenosis

As people age, symptoms such as pain in the lower back and legs become more frequent. One common source of that pain is spinal stenosis. Adults over the age of 60 are especially at risk, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Jacob Smith, DO, fellowship-trained orthopaedic and spine surgeon at UPMC Northwest, talks the basics of spinal stenosis in this Q&A.

Q: What Is Spinal Stenosis?

A: Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal. While some cases of stenosis are congenital, the majority are the result of the spinal column’s natural aging process.

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Q: What Are the Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?

A: Symptoms of spinal stenosis usually include low back pain that radiates into the buttocks and down the thighs, usually as far as the calves.  The pain is usually worse when standing or attempting to walk, and the patient may find relief by sitting down and leaning forward. An aching sensation or feeling of heaviness in the legs, along with numbness and tingling, may also occur.

Q: Does Spinal Stenosis Have Any Risk Factors?

A: Obesity, smoking, and family history may contribute to the development of spinal stenosis. Those with a genetic predisposition may develop spinal stenosis earlier in life than those with age-related spinal stenosis.

Q: How Is Spinal Stenosis Diagnosed?

A: Spinal stenosis is diagnosed through a physical examination followed by an imaging study. Typically, the patient will have an x-ray first. If needed, the physician may recommend further diagnostic imaging, such as a CT scan (with or without contrast dye) or MRI.

Q: What Are the Treatment Options for Spinal Stenosis?

A: There are several treatment options for spinal stenosis including laminectomy, a surgical procedure that removes part or all the bony ring surrounding the spine and the calcified and thickened ligament that compresses the nerves in the spinal canal, causing pain. Once the ligament is removed, the patient’s buttock and leg pain should be resolved.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Smith, call Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Associates–UPMC

at 814-437-2191 for the Franklin office, 814-226-1070 for the Clarion office, or 814-827-6367 for the Titusville office.

About UPMC Orthopaedic Care

As a national leader in advanced orthopaedic care, UPMC treats a full range of musculoskeletal disorders, from basic to complex. We offer treatments for both acute and chronic conditions. Whether you have bone, muscle, or joint pain, we provide access to UPMC’s vast network of services for both surgical and nonsurgical treatments. UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside appears on U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of the top hospitals in the country for orthopaedics. We strive to use the most advanced treatments. We are leaders in research and clinical trials, seeking even more cutting-edge tools and techniques.