Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of one or more spaces between the bones (vertebrae) of the spine that causes either the spinal cord or nerves that branch from the spinal cord to become compressed. Spinal stenosis usually occurs in the lumbar (lower back) or cervical (neck) regions of the spine but can occur in the thoracic region (middle back) as well.
What are the Causes of Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is caused by a variety of reasons and usually affects the elderly. Older persons can develop arthritis (degeneration of bone). In older adults the vertebrae can also become enlarged, thereby decreasing the spaces between the bones where nerves are located. Furthermore, a back injury such a slipped or herniated disk (the shock absorbing cartilage between vertebrae) can force some or all of the disk material through the tough outer layer of the disk, and the material can narrow the spaces where nerves are located and cause pressure.
Other causes include injury to an area of the spine, which causes inflammation and compression of the spaces between bones, a birth defect that affects the normal spacing between the vertebrae or spinal canal (the space that contains the spinal cord), tumors, and abnormal destruction and re-growth of bone, which can cause deformity known as Paget’s disease.
Work Related Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis can occur as the result of a slip and fall, a blow to the back, or any other injury that causes nerve compression in an area of the back. A herniated disk incurred from a fall, heavy lifting, and repetitive bending can cause spinal stenosis.
Also, a work-related injury can be compensable if the injury aggravates a previous degenerative back condition such as spinal stenosis. Consequently, if the work related injury exacerbates such a condition and a medical provider opines surgery is necessary, the costs of surgery and future medical care may be awarded to the worker.
What are the Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?
Symptoms of spinal stenosis can vary depending on the affected area of the spine. If spinal stenosis occurs in the lumbar region, pain, numbness, and weakness can occur in the legs, buttocks, calves, and pelvic region. Pain in the low back is also a hallmark symptom. If the nerve compression occurs in the cervical or neck region, pain may be felt at the area of compression. Numbness, weakness, pain, and tingling may also be experienced in the shoulder and arms.
Typically, those with spinal stenosis cannot sit or stand upright for extended lengths of time. Consequently, bending or leaning forward may relieve some of the pressure on the compressed nerve(s). More severe symptoms of spinal stenosis may resemble that of Cauda Equina Syndrome. Walking and balance may be challenging for a person with such a severe case. Also, a person might not be able to control his or her bowel movements, or may have difficulty urinating.
Diagnosis of Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis is diagnosed through a combination of diagnostic tools. A thorough medical history will be taken by your physician, to assess any underlying causes. Similarly, any symptoms that you have will be discussed with the doctor. Your physician will also perform a physical exam, which will reveal any physical movements that cause pain and reveal any physical limitation in movement of the spine.
A number or tests may be used to assess the possible narrowing of areas in the spine. The tests include: X-Ray, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), CT Scans (computerized tomography), and tests that use injections of contrast dyes called Myelograms and bone scans.
Treatment of Spinal Stenosis
Treatment of spinal stenosis can involve both surgical and non-surgical intervention. Non-surgical treatment includes pain medication, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), rest, physical therapy, and corticosteroid injections to relieve swelling and inflammation.
Non-surgical treatment usually only relieves the symptoms of spinal stenosis. Surgical treatment can treat the underlying cause. Although there are many surgical techniques a surgeon may use, more common procedures include laminotomy or laminectomy, discectomy or fusion. For instance a surgeon may widen the spinal canal to create more room for the spinal cord. A surgeon may trim, cut, or fuse bone or disk material in a fashion that creates more space for the nerve and relieves compression.
If your spinal stenosis is work related, your attorney should work on a contingency basis. This means that you will not pay any attorneys’ fees unless you obtain a recovery. Also, your attorneys should advance all of the associated costs of the litigation. You should not be paying anything out of pocket. If you win, all fees, costs and expenses will come from the recovery amount.
Choosing an Attorney
We know numerous attorneys throughout the state who have great experience with workers’ compensation cases. This is why people come to us. If you have spinal stenosis, any attorney that we recommend will have handled hundreds of spinal stenosis and workers’ compensation cases in past. This doesn’t guarantee a result, but does give you the best chance for a successful result.
If you would like our help in finding a law firm in Illinois, please contact us at (800) 517-1614. We will speak with you for free and do whatever we can to help you. All calls are free and confidential.