An impinged nerve can cause a lot of pain and muscle weakness. There are a lot of reasons that a nerve could be irritated or even pinched, including spinal stenosis. If it gets bad enough, some people might even find it difficult to work. This condition can make it difficult or painful to walk, stand, sit, and do other everyday activities. Anyone who thinks that they might have spinal stenosis or another related condition should make an appointment with their doctor. But they should also look into what they’ll need to take care of their bills until they’re able to go back to work.
What Is Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is a condition in which the spaces in the spine where the nerves travel become narrow, which often causes pinching of the nerves. This condition often causes pain, discomfort, pins and needles sensations, and other negative feelings. In severe cases, it might even affect a person’s strength as the impingement makes it more difficult for neural messages to travel to the muscles.
There are two basic types of spinal stenosis: cervical stenosis and lumbar stenosis. Cervical stenosis refers to a narrowing of the spinal canal in the neck. Lumbar stenosis is when the narrowing is in the lower back. Lumbar stenosis will affect the legs, but people with cervical stenosis are most likely to notice symptoms in their arms and hands.
The spinal cord runs in the spinal canal in the backbone, and if the canal begins to narrow, a person can begin to have symptoms of spinal stenosis. While it’s possible to have spinal stenosis because of being born with a small canal, most stenosis occurs because of some kind of damage.
Bone spurs and other kinds of bone overgrowths are one of the most common ways that the spinal canal can become more narrow. Bone spurs often form when a person has osteoarthritis. Herniated discs, thickened ligaments, tumors, and spinal injuries are other reasons that some people’s spinal canals begin to narrow.
People over the age of 50 are most likely to develop spinal stenosis, but it’s possible for younger people with congenital spinal deformations, such as scoliosis, to experience spinal stenosis.
Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis
People with spinal stenosis will experience symptoms in certain areas according to where the narrowing of the spinal canal is located. If a person has cervical stenosis, they’ll likely begin to experience symptoms, such as numbness or tingling, in a hand, arm, foot, or leg. Weakness in a leg, hand, arm, or foot is also possible. Some people might also begin to notice that they have neck pain or problems with walking and balancing. Finally, in severe cases, some people will begin to experience urinary incontinence and other types of bowel and bladder dysfunction.
People with lumbar stenosis are likely to experience similar symptoms, but the locations might be slightly different. For instance, someone with lumbar stenosis is likely to experience symptoms like numbness or tingling in a foot or leg, weakness in a leg or foot, and back pain. Some people are also likely to experience pain and cramping in the legs and lower back when they stand or walk for too long. These symptoms will often be alleviated when the person sits or bends forward.
When someone has spinal stenosis of the lumbar region, they only experience symptoms on the lower half of the body because neural signals are able to travel in the upper half of the body without difficulty. But someone with cervical stenosis of the spine can have symptoms in a range of places because the neural signal can be affected anywhere from the neck down.
In rare and severe cases of spinal stenosis that don’t get treated, the symptoms of incontinence, numbness, pain, weakness, and balance problems can become permanent.
Treatment for Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis is treatable in many cases, but it can take some time to figure out the best plan of action for each individual. Because not everyone with spinal stenosis even experiences symptoms right away, some doctors might choose to just monitor the situation rather than jumping to a course of treatment. This might also be the case for people who are only experiencing mild symptoms.
Another course of treatment to relieve mild to moderate pain is to take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin and acetaminophen. These types of medicines should only be used over the course of a short time, though, and they won’t have any kind of long-term benefits.
Some types of antidepressants, such as amitriptyline, can ease chronic pain. And some types of anti-seizure drugs are sometimes useful in easing pain caused by nerve damage. Finally, for medications, opioids can sometimes be used for people experiencing severe pain if they’re only used in the short term. Long-term use is not advisable because of the risk of opioid dependence.
Physical therapy is another type of treatment, and it can actually have long-term positive outcomes in some patients. In these types of physical therapy sessions, the therapist will teach the patient exercises to strengthen and stretch certain areas of the body, which can actually alleviate symptoms in the long-term.
Steroid injections are often an option for people because they can reduce inflammation and some of the pain associated with it. Some other options are surgery in which the spinal canal is cleaned out to make it bigger, and decompression procedures, where a portion of the ligament that’s obstructing the canal is removed with needles.
Disability Benefits for Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis in the lumbar region is recognized by the Social Security Administration as a medical condition that is eligible for disability benefits. In order to qualify, though, applicants must meet a variety of criteria. Beyond having the stenosis in the lumbar region, the applicant must also have a test showing evidence of it. For instance, an MRI, CT scan, or myelography must also accompany the claim. Additionally, pain in the back, buttocks, or thighs with weakness is another necessary criteria. The applicant must also experience pain not radiating from the nerve. And finally, they must also experience an inability to walk properly, resulting in a need to use a walker or two crutches.
When applying for disability benefits, applicants should work with their doctors to obtain the necessary medical evidence that shows how they meet the listing for disability benefits in the SSA Blue Book. Beyond the CT scan or other type of imaging to show the presence of stenosis in the lumbar region, the applicant and their doctor will also need to give a list of which treatments they have already tried, including any steroid injection, surgeries, or medications.
Applicants who don’t quite fill all of the requirements are still able to apply under the medical-vocational allowance. In this process, the applicant is asked to fill out the residual functional capacity test with their doctor to determine which areas of functioning have been affected. The SSA will then compare this list with jobs that the applicant has done in the past to determine whether or not there’s any work available for the applicant. If there’s not, then the SSA might grant disability benefits.
How We Can Help
There are several ways in which the team at Osterhout Berger Disability Law can help you receive the benefit you deserve. We help individuals who need to…
- Apply for Social Security Benefits and want to ensure everything is done right the first time
- Appeal a denial of Social Security Disability Benefits
- Appeal an existing denial of Long Term Disability (LTD) Benefits
If you are facing one of these situations due to Spinal Stenosis, please do not hesitate in reaching out. Our team of experienced attorneys are here to help, and your consultation is free.