Spinal stenosis is a condition involving a narrowing of the spinal canal. The spinal canal is the series of openings that run through the center of the vertebrae. A bundle of nerves known as the spinal cord is contained within the spinal canal.When the canal narrows as a result of spinal stenosis, the nerves of the spinal cord can become constricted.
Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis
Patients with spinal stenosis may experience some or all of the following symptoms:
Numbness or tingling in the extremities
Muscle weakness in extremities
Waves of back pain
The intensity of symptoms can vary greatly depending on severity and location of the stenosis.
Causes of Spinal Stenosis
Degeneration and Aging
Spinal stenosis is most often a result of degenerative
causes that develop as the patient ages. Gradual degeneration of the facet joints and the discs between vertebrae can cause bone spurs to grow in the spinal canal, causing stenosis.
Arthritis can cause the facet joints of the spine to enlarge. Ligaments of the spinal column stiffen with arthritis and can also contribute to spinal stenosis.
When one vertebrae slips out of place, causing a condition called spondylolisthesis
. the spinal canal can become narrow.
Trauma that causes fragments of the spine to enter the spinal canal can result in stenosis.
In rare cases, spinal stenosis can be caused by tumors or deposits of calcium or amyloid. Some people are born with naturally narrow spinal canals. The majority of stenosis cases, however, are caused by natural degeneration.
Diagnosis of Spinal Stenosis
In order to determine the presence, severity and location of spinal stenosis, doctors will often perform some or all of the following diagnostic techniques:
Complete physical examination
Identification of symptoms and severity
X-rays of the spine
CT scans or MRI scans
These tests will help to pinpoint the spinal condition and determine the best course of action for treatment.
Treatment of Spinal Stenosis
Depending on the nature of the diagnosis, the first treatment plan typically includes anti-inflammatory drugs in combination with physical therapy. Spinal surgery may be considered after medication, therapy and rest have failed to improve the stenosis.
There are a variety of spinal surgery techniques
available. The best option for each patient depends on the location and nature of the stenosis, as well as the patient’s particular risks. Discuss your treatment options with your doctor.
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to schedule an appointment or to learn more about spinal stenosis.