Occurs in various spinal conditions, spinal stenosis is a condition in which the opening of the spinal canal has narrowed and is pinching a nerve root and/or the spinal cord.
What is Spinal Stenosis?
- Aging, wear and tear, and other spinal conditions can cause spinal stenosis, or a narrowing of the spinal canal. The narrowed canal may compress against nerve roots or worse, the spinal cord. Common symptoms include dull or radiating pain, difficulty walking or standing straight, and numbing of the extremities.
- Spinal stenosis mostly affects patients 55 years and older, but can perturb any area of the back. It develops over a period of time, and often mimics other spinal conditions.
- Most patients with spinal stenosis develop the problem from ailments related to other spinal conditions. Years of these spinal diseases can create inflamed tissue, bone spurs, and herniated discs, all which may narrow the spinal canal.
- Treatments involve healing the conditions that caused spinal stenosis.
What causes it?
Spinal stenosis is caused by problems related to other spinal conditions. These conditions can develop complications that may narrow the spinal canal. The inflammation of the spinal tissue and compression against nerves and the spinal cord is what produces the symptoms.
Such complications may include calcified ligaments and bones from spinal arthritis, bone spurs and herniated discs from degenerative disc disease, and slipped discs from spondylolisthesis.
Most cases of spinal stenosis affect patients around the ages of 55 and older. Other risk factors for spinal stenosis include smoking, obesity, lack of exercise and proper nutrition, and other medical conditions like osteoporosis, heart disease, and diabetes.
Symptoms depend on the affected spinal areas. If the narrowing occurs in the cervical (neck area), it may cause pain in the neck and shoulder area and pain and numbness in the upper extremities. Narrowing around the lumbar (lower back) area may produce pain in the lower back that may shoot down to the lower extremities and numbing of the buttocks, legs, and feet.
How do you treat it?
Upon diagnosis of spinal stenosis, treatment usually depends on the severity of compression against nerves and/or the spinal canal. Conservative methods of treatment will be recommended and exhausted before surgery becomes an option.
Common treatments include physical therapy, rest, massages, pain and anti-inflammatory medications, and steroidal injections. If treatments do not effectively manage the pain and heal the conditions, then surgery will be recommended.
Most surgical procedures will heal the conditions that cause spinal stenosis and involve realigning the affected spinal area, removing of bone spurs, and increasing the spinal canal.
Laminectomy, foraminotomy, and medial facetectomy are surgical procedures that remove affected bone to increase the canal. Depending on the complexity, spinal fusion may be combined with these procedures.
If you would like more information on these procedures, and you feel you may be a candidate, please send us your MRI scan here and we will review it for free.