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Spinal Stenosis v. Sciatica: What’s the Difference?

There are many conditions dealing with the spinal cord that seem similar in nature. Two common conditions often confused by patients are spinal stenosis and sciatica. Although both are rooted in issues regarding nerve compression, spinal stenosis and sciatica have different causes and treatment options.

What are they?

Spinal stenosis refers to the narrowing of open spaces within the spine, which can put pressure on your spinal cord and the nerves that travel through the spine. This sensation occurs most often in the neck and lower back, compressing the spinal cord or nerve roots. Symptoms of spinal stenosis stemming from the lower back include numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, or loss of motor function in the legs. Symptoms of spinal stenosis stemming from the neck may include pain throughout the upper body, muscle weakness, or loss of coordination in the arms and hands.

Sciatica is a condition of radiating pain throughout the lower back, hip, and leg. This pain is brought on by sciatic nerve compression. Since the sciatic nerve begins in the lower region of the back and runs down through the leg, severe damage to the nerve can trigger uncomfortable pain.

What causes each of them?

Spinal stenosis occurs mostly in older men and women. Depending on the characterization of the condition, spinal stenosis can either be inherited or acquired over time. A herniated disc, bone spurs, a bulging disc, spondylolisthesis, or trauma injuries can also result in spinal stenosis.

Sciatica can occur in older men and women, pregnant women, and individuals who have lived through physical trauma. Sciatic nerve pain can have many causes, like experiencing a herniated disc, spinal cysts, or a tumor. The most common cause of sciatic nerve pain is wear and tear on spinal discs combined with sudden changes in pressure.

How can they be treated?

Spinal stenosis can be treated by a number of remedy options. These treatments include anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, exercise focused on core stability, over-the-counter or prescription pain medication, and direct steroid joint injections. If spinal stenosis symptoms cannot be contained by these measures, minimally invasive spine surgery may be considered.

Sciatica is first treated by conservative measures, such as chiropractic adjustments or osteopathic manipulation. These treatments manipulate the spine to reduce the amount of separation of joint surfaces, resulting in an increased range of motion. Other types of conservative treatment options include prescription medications or acupuncture. Similar to spinal stenosis, if conservative therapy does not provide adequate relief, a minimally invasive surgical procedure may be considered.

If you or a loved one are victims of spinal stenosis or sciatica, do not wait to be treated. The road to recovery can be sure and steady with a team of spine experts, like Spine Solutions, by your side. Call us at (954) 329-1769 or email us at info@spinesolutionsfl.com to schedule a consultation.

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