Is there a test for spinal stenosis?

Doctors use a variety of tools to see if you have spinal stenosis and rule out other conditions, including:

  • Medical and family history, which helps to determine if an injury, aging, or an underlying condition is causing your symptoms.
  • Physical exam, which may check how you move and walk, when your pain happens, muscle strength in your arms and legs, and your balance.
  • Imaging tests such as x-rays, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and computerized tomography (CT) scans.

How is spinal stenosis treated?

Doctors treat spinal stenosis with different options such as:

  • Nonsurgical treatments, such as physical therapy, a brace to provide support, acupuncture, and adjustments of the spine or massage of the muscles by trained health care providers, may relieve pain.
  • Medications to help manage pain and inflammation.
  • Surgery, depending on your symptoms, how you respond to other treatments, your overall health, and if it is right for your specific spinal structure.

Who treats spinal stenosis?

Doctors who can provide treatment of spinal stenosis may be:

  • Family or primary care doctors.
  • Neurologists, who treat disorders and diseases of the spine, brain, and nerves.
  • Neurosurgeons, who perform surgery for disorders and diseases of spine, brain, and nerves.
  • Orthopaedists, who treat and perform surgery for bone and joint diseases.
  • Pain specialists, who are physicians including anesthesiologists with specialized training in evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of different types of pain.
  • Physiatrists, who specialize in physical and rehabilitation medicine.
  • Physical therapists, who specialize in movement and strengthening muscles.
  • Rheumatologists, who specialize in treating musculoskeletal diseases and autoimmune disorders.

Living with spinal stenosis

The following self-care tips can help you manage and live with spinal stenosis:   

  • Get regular exercise. Try to exercise at least three times a week for 30 minutes. Avoid doing things that can make the pain worse. Your health care provider or physical therapist may recommend specific exercises for you to do at home as well. Talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
  • Change your daily routines that might cause pain. Pace activities so you don’t overdo it.  
  • Use assistive devices, such as a cane or walker, to help you safely move around.  
  • Try changing your posture. Some people may find that moving the spine into different positions can relieve some of their symptoms.
  • Practice healthy habits. For example, maintain a healthy weight and if you smoke, quit.