Spinal Stenosis Symptoms Sciatica

Sciatica can be a spinal stenosis symptom (as well as an indication of problems with the piriformis muscle in the thigh) and is commonly relieved by bending forwards, sitting, or lying down. One common diagnostic sign of sciatica is so-called ‘shopping cart syndrome‘ as sufferers frequently experience relief when pushing a cart in the grocery store as the forward motion opens up the spaces in the lumbar spine, freeing the trapped nerves. Patients may become more sedentary due to sciatica, may develop postural problems from continually leaning forward to relieve pain, and could develop other health conditions due to inactivity, fear of pain, or progression of the narrowing of the spine. Analgesic anti-inflammatory medications are not usually helpful for spinal stenosis as it is the physical (mechanical) compression of the spinal nerves which is responsible for the pain rather than inflammation.

Spinal Stenosis Nerve Damage

Spinal stenosis symptoms may include a severe aching pain in the lower back (lumbar spine) or down the buttocks and backs of the thighs with pain usually aggravated by walking. Where nerve damage occurs the pain may develop into a numbness and/or weakness in the legs or back (or in the arms if cervical spinal stenosis is present).
Paraesthesia is another symptom of spinal stenosis with patients suffering from a tingling sensation or ‘pins and needles’ as it is sometimes referred to. This sensation may be triggered by long periods of standing, and activities such as yoga or stretching where the lower spine is bent backwards or the neck forwards. Taking care to only carry out appropriate back stretches for sciatica and spinal stenosis is important so as not to exacerbate nerve damage. Patients may find that reduced stamina or endurance is another spinal stenosis symptom that becomes progressively worse as the nerve compression continues.



Spinal Stenosis and Inflammation

Where pain-relief is experienced using NSAIDs, or even cortisone injections into the area, this usually indicates inflammation as the cause of spinal stenosis symptoms rather than a physical obstruction such as osteophyte growth, ligament calcification, or disc herniation. A chronic inflammatory condition causing spinal stenosis may require long-term pain medication and anti-inflammatory treatment but most cases of acute-onset inflammation will simply subside over time and no spinal stensosis symptoms will remain. Recent evidence suggests that epidural steroid injections to relieve inflammation causing sciatica and other back problems leaves patients with a higher risk of spinal fracture as the steroid medications adversely affect the mineralization of bone. In some cases it is possible to reduce spinal stenosis symptoms by correcting postural problems, but some cases require back surgery to remove the obstruction in the spine which is causing the pinched nerve(s).
Related Information:
Spinal Stenosis Symptoms
Spinal Stenosis Symptoms and Treatment