Many of my clients who have been injured on the job have been diagnosed with a form of stenosis at one time or another during the course of their workers’ compensation claim. While this is a pretty common diagnosis, how many folks really understand what the diagnosis means?
“Stenosis refers to “the abnormal narrowing of a passage in the body. There are two types of spinal stenosis: lumbar stenosis and cervical stenosis. While lumbar spinal stenosis is more common, cervical spinal stenosis is often more dangerous.”
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis vs. Cervical Spinal Stenosis
In lumbar stenosis, the spinal nerve roots in the lower back are compressed, or choked, and this can produce symptoms of sciatica— tingling, weakness or numbness that radiates from the low back and into the buttocks and legs — especially with activity.
In cervical spinal stenosis, you have pain in the neck and the entire spinal cord is compressed. Spinal cord stenosis may lead to serious symptoms, including major body weakness or even paralysis. Such severe spinal stenosis symptoms are virtually impossible in the lumbar spine since the spinal cord is not present in the lumbar spine.
Spinal Stenosis Symptoms and Diagnosis
Generally speaking, the various types of spinal stenosis produce similar symptoms.
The most common symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis include leg pain (sciatica) that may be accompanied by:
- Low back pain
- Leg numbness and tingling
- Limitations in walking
Common Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis
Leg pain with walking (claudication) can be caused by either arterial circulatory insufficiency (vascular claudication) or from spinal stenosis (neurogenic or pseudo-claudication). Leg pain from either condition will go away with rest but with spinal stenosis the patient usually has to sit down for a few minutes to ease the leg and often low back pain, whereas leg pain from vascular claudication will go away if the patient simply stops walking.
Although occasionally the leg pain and stenosis symptoms will come on acutely, they generally develop over the course of several years. The longer a patient with spinal stenosis stands or walks, the worse the leg pain will get.
Flexing forward or sitting will open up the spinal canal and relieve the leg pain and other symptoms but they recur if the patient gets back into an upright posture. Numbness and tingling can accompany the pain but true weakness is a rare symptom of spinal stenosis. An older person leaning over the handle of their shopping cart while making short stumbling steps often has spinal stenosis.
If you are struggling with stenosis as the result of a work injury or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order my book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia,” or call our office today (804) 755-7755.
Michele Lewane, Esq.