The Dangers of Undiagnosed Spinal Stenosis

Have you noticed numbness or tingling in one or both of your feet or hands or problems with walking sometimes after a slip and fall or a car accident? You might be suffering from undiagnosed spinal stenosis.

The symptoms of spinal stenosis are not always immediately apparent after an accident, but they can creep up on you and get worse over time. The condition can become debilitating if it goes undiagnosed and untreated.        

If you suffer from spinal stenosis in an accident due to the negligence of a third party, you may be able to get compensation for your treatment and any financial losses that may result from the condition. Find out more about spinal stenosis and when you should get in touch with personal injury lawyers at Diamond & Diamond.

Spinal Stenosis Explained

Your spine is a series of 33 bones called vertebrae that run from the base of the neck to the lower back and form the spinal canal that encloses a bundle of nerves called the spinal cord. The spine is divided into five sections. The topmost seven vertebrae comprise the cervical section (C1 to C7) followed by the thoracic (T1 to T12), lumbar (L1 to L5), sacrum (S1 to S5, fused), and coccyx (3 to 5 bones, fused) sections.

Stenosis is from the Greek word stenōsis, which means “act of narrowing.” Therefore, spinal stenosis refers to narrowing the standard spaces within the spinal canal and around the spinal cord, typically in the lower back (lumbar) and neck (cervical). When the space becomes too small, it can put pressure on the spinal cord, causing weakness, discomfort, and pain.

Spinal stenosis is a degenerative disease, which means it is progressive and often irreversible when it gets to a certain point. That is why it is essential to diagnose it early, so it doesn’t get to that point.


There are two types of spinal stenosis, distinguished by the affected area: cervical and lumbar. Some people have just one type, while others have both.

Cervical stenosis refers to narrowing the spinal canal along C1 to C7, which is the neck area. Lumbar stenosis is more common and occurs along the L1 to L5 section of the spine, which is the lower back area.


The most common cause of spinal stenosis is osteoarthritis, which breaks down the cartilage between the vertebrae, thickens the ligaments, and develops bone spurs. Any of these spinal  changes can put pressure on the spinal cord. Some people are born with a narrow spinal canal, so they are predisposed to spinal stenosis. Other causes of spinal stenosis include:

  • Herniated discs – Discs are the rubbery pads between vertebrae that act as shock absorbers and have soft material that can leak or bulge out, putting pressure on the spinal cord
  • Tumors – Tumors are growths that can develop along the spinal canal, in the membranes of the spinal cord, or the spinal cord itself, and may cause a lot of pain when it impinges on the spinal cord
  • Spinal injuries–Trauma to any part of the spine due to a fall or a car accident can dislocate or fracture the vertebrae and damage the structures within the spinal canal. Soft tissue injury can also cause swelling, putting pressure on the spinal cord. Spine imaging may identify fractures or displacement but not soft tissue swelling. Spinal injuries leading to stenosis often require surgery.
  • Congenital spinal deformity, i.e., scoliosis
  • Genetic disease causing the abnormal growth of bone or muscle


An MRI or CT scan may detect spinal stenosis for many people, even if they do not yet experience any symptoms. However, that typically changes over time as the condition deteriorates.  The symptoms may vary depending on the type of spinal stenosis and the patient’s physiology. The most common symptoms include:

  • Back or neck pain
  • Problems with balance and walking
  • Sciatica (burning pain that travels from the buttocks to the legs)
  • Numbness or tingling of feet, legs, arms, or hands
  • Cramps
  • Weakness of the legs
  • Foot dropping, symptomatic of weakness in one foot
  • Decline in sexual ability

In some cases, the condition is so severe that it compresses the spinal nerve roots, leading to permanent damage and possibly paralysis if not addressed immediately. You need to get prompt medical attention if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Urinary incontinence
  • Loss of bowel control
  • Severe numbness or weakness in the legs that make it difficult to move

Dangers of Undiagnosed Spinal Stenosis

People over the age of 50 are at risk for spinal stenosis, primarily due to underlying conditions, such as osteoarthritis. It may also occur in younger people with degenerative or congenital conditions, such as trauma, work-related injuries, scoliosis, or bone and muscle diseases.

Some people with undiagnosed spinal stenosis will not feel any symptoms or may otherwise ignore them until they get worse. Early signs of spinal stenosis include tingling of the extremities and vague, but constant, pain in the neck or back.  Other potential issues with undiagnosed spinal stenosis include:

  • Chronic pain that gets progressively worse
  • Inability to participate in many activities such as biking, swimming, and jogging
  • Inability to work 
  • Paralysis
  • Incontinence

When the condition gets really bad, it might require surgery to relieve the pain, which is why it is vital to get it diagnosed in the early stages to avoid such an invasive and potentially risky procedure.

Diagnosing Spinal Stenosis

Diagnosing spinal stenosis begins with describing any symptoms you may be experiencing or a recent trauma that might have occurred. The doctor will rule out spinal stenosis through the following imaging tests:

  • X-rays – An X-ray will identify any bone spurs or fractures that may narrow or impede the spine canal, causing some areas to become restricted.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – An MRI will produce a cross-section of the spine using radio waves and powerful magnets to find tumors or any damage to ligaments and discs that might be the source of pressure on your spinal cord.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scanAn alternative to MRI is the CT scan, which takes X-ray images from different angles to produce cross-sectional, detailed images of your body. Another type of CT scan is a CT myelogram, which uses a dye to detect tumors, bone spurs, and herniated discs.

These imaging tests will show a qualified physician early signs of spinal stenosis. If the doctor fails to order these tests when appropriate, such as following a traumatic accident, you can have significant health problems. 

Treating Spinal Stenosis

Early detection of spinal stenosis increases the chances of not requiring surgery.  Your doctor may refer you to different specialists to oversee the following treatments:

  • Physical therapy to increase the strength of muscles in the back, stomach and legs; provide braces or stretching exercises to support the back
  • Non-steroidal and steroidal medication to reduce inflammation and pain
  • Acupuncture and chiropractic treatment

Surgery is always an option, but it should only be considered a last resort because surgery comes with risks. Try other therapies before deciding on surgery unless there is an acute injury due to trauma, such as a car accident or slip and fall.

Tips to Prevent Lumbar Spinal Stenosis 

Exercise regularly Strengthening muscles through regular exercise will support your back and increase the spine’s flexibility. Swimming, cycling, walking, and supervised weight training will benefit your back and help prevent lumbar spinal stenosis.
Ensure good posture Lifting heavy objects incorrectly can lead to damage to your back and spine. Learn to lift with your legs to avoid unnecessary strain on your back. Make sure you sleep on an orthopedic mattress and use ergonomic chairs that provide additional support for your back.
Stay at a healthy weight Putting on too much weight for your height and body type puts a strain on your back that can lead to lumbar spinal stenosis.

If your injury is misdiagnosed and leads to spinal stenosis, let Diamond and Diamond Miami help you with the compensation you deserve.


Pro Tip

“If you’re helping an accident victim, help them manage their pain and increase their mobility.”

– Diamond and Diamond Miami

Was Your Spinal Stenosis Injury Caused By an Accident?

Spinal stenosis is a serious condition resulting from physical trauma, such as workplace injuries or car accidents. If your doctor fails to diagnose the condition on time or the trauma is so great that surgery becomes necessary, it can result in long-term financial and medical issues for you. If you believe that your spinal stenosis injury is a result of an accident caused by the negligence of others, the experienced spinal cord injury lawyers of Diamond and Diamond in Miami can help you get compensation.

We specialize in handling personal injury cases in Miami, ensuring that our clients get financial, emotional, and physical relief. Diamond and Diamond Lawyers in Miami commit to protecting our clients’ rights and maximizing their compensation for any injuries they have suffered.Don’t wait to ask for our help in handling your personal injury claim for spinal stenosis. We make a point of serving each of our clients with personalized attention, compassion, and professionalism. Call 1-800-567-HURT now to get a free consultation with a Diamond & Diamond personal injury lawyer.

The Dangers of Undiagnosed Spinal Stenosis FAQs

Regular exercise, good posture, and a healthy weight can help keep the symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis at bay. Having acupuncture treatments, taking nutritional supplements, such as glucosamine, and using cold or hot compresses to relieve the pain can also make it easier to live with the condition. However, if your lumbar spinal stenosis is due to a serious accident, the symptoms will likely be so severe that you will not be able to power through it.

Yes, CT scans can help the doctor detect signs of spinal stenosis by creating a cross-section of your spine. A CT myelogram makes it easier to see structural changes to your spine or herniated discs by using a contrast dye.

If spinal surgery is necessary to treat your spinal stenosis, it will take approximately three months to recover enough to go back to work. The recovery time might be longer for spinal fusion and depending on how well you do in rehabilitation and the complexity of the surgery.

Untreated severe spinal stenosis may progress and cause permanent numbness, weakness, and balance problems. If you have spinal stenosis, and it is serious enough that you are unable to work or perform normal day-to-day activities, it may result in permanent disability and you might want to apply for Social Security disability benefits.

Some exercises that you should avoid that might aggravate your condition include stretching in a standing position, doing free weights, running, and similar other high-impact exercises.

In some cases, spinal stenosis can be caused by a defective product. An example of this is where a medical instrument fails during a spinal surgery or spine procedure, resulting in a spinal stenosis injury. In such cases, it may be possible to file suit for the injuries that were caused by the defective product.