Spinal Stenosis and Bladder Issues

Can back conditions like stenosis cause problems like incontinence and urinary urgency?

Absent some sort of trauma, when someone starts developing back pain or numbness or tingling sensations in their lower limbs, lumbar spinal stenosis is one of the first things their physician will look for. Stenosis of the spine is the result of a narrowing within the spinal column that allows abnormal pressure to be placed on the nerves that run through the spine.

Spinal stenosis is yet another one of those conditions that has its risk factor increased with age. In fact, even though younger people are susceptible due to accidents and trauma, as well as inherited potential for diseases like scoliosis, most people who develop stenosis have passed their 50th birthday. Another aspect to growing older that so many of us look forward to is the prospect of bladder issues, such as incontinence, urinary urgency and other related issues. What a lot of people do not realize is that lumbar spinal stenosis and bladder issues may be related.

Symptoms of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Typically, we associate the following symptoms with spinal stenosis in the lumbar, or lower back, area:

  • Pain in the lower back
  • Numbness in the legs or feet
  • Tingling in the legs or feet
  • A weakness or feeling that the legs may not be able to support standing
  • Sciatica symptoms of a searing pain that runs from the buttocks and then down one leg or the other
  • Decreased sexual abilities
  • Noticeable difference in the level of pain experienced while standing or walking and then what is felt when the individual sits down
  • Pain level decreasing when an individual leans or bends forward

The reason that bladder issues belong on the list of symptoms associated with lumbar stenosis is that the nerves at the lower end of the lumbar region branch out into the peripheral nervous system, which is where bladder function and sensation are controlled. Compression of these nerves due to lumbar stenosis can lead to neurogenic bladder dysfunction and present as urinary issues such as frequency, urgency and lack of control.

Pain and the other symptoms that are normally associated with lower back issues are difficult enough to deal with. When incontinence or any other sort of urinary issue is added, many people allow their quality of life to be severely impacted due to embarrassment. This makes it even more important to visit a healthcare professional as soon as symptoms are noticed.

Currently, there is no cure for spinal stenosis other than the surgical correction of the underlying anatomy. There are, however, a wide range of treatments available to manage pain and relieve symptoms. Once a diagnosis has been made by means of a physical examination and musculoskeletal testing, often including an MRI or EMG, treatment options will be presented. This will usually involve a combination of medications to reduce pain and inflammation, along with physical therapy, acupuncture,  and, possibly, epidural steroid injections, as well as other pain management techniques. Surgery is only recommended in more severe cases. If your bladder becomes affected by spinal stenosis, this is actually considered more of a surgical emergency as these symptoms can be arrested when caught very early.

At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, our physicians are committed to more than just treating your symptoms. We strongly believe that each individual is best served through an integrative treatment plan. We focus on finding the underlying cause and providing non-surgical, evidenced based solutions tailored to your specific condition and needs. If you are experiencing an issue with spinal stenosis or have questions about any other condition or service, we invite you to schedule a consultation by using our convenient online form by clicking here.