Understanding Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis is a condition that affects the spinal column and the nerves that run through it. This article will explore the causes of spinal stenosis and its possible treatments.
Overview of spinal stenosis
Within the spinal column, bundles of nerves travel through spaces between each vertebra called the spinal canal. These nerves then split off from the spinal cord and travel to other parts of the body. Sometimes, due to changes in the positioning of the spine, the spinal canal can begin to narrow or tighten. This narrowing can compress the nerve bundles and their roots, causing pain and inflammation in the back.
Over time, the spine can suffer from bone spurs and other degenerative changes that can lead to nerve irritation. Spinal stenosis is the condition that describes this process of narrowing in the spine and later inflammation of the neighboring nerves.
Spinal stenosis can occur in different parts of the spine depending on the individual case. When the condition develops in the upper part of the back and neck, it is called cervical stenosis. The more common form of spinal stenosis develops in the lower back and is called lumbar stenosis.
With prompt treatment, many with spinal stenosis are able to find relief from their chronic back pain.
Causes of spinal stenosis
Spinal stenosis can emerge as the result of a variety of conditions. Some potential causes of spinal stenosis include
- Development of bone spurs: Osteoarthritis in the spine can lead the bones of the spine to rub painfully together. This friction can produce bone growths that may begin to narrow the space in the spine.
- Herniated discs: The hard exterior of the discs that cushion each vertebra of the spine can crack, which can allow the soft inner cartilage to poke out of place and constrict the space of nerves in the spinal canal.
- Degenerative disc disease: More generally, discs can start to lose their form and protective abilities over time, meaning they can also compress the space in the spinal canal.
- Thickening ligaments: Sometimes, the ligaments that support the spine can grow thick over time and begin to crowd into the spinal canal.
- Spinal injuries: Serious injuries to the spine can dislocate or damage the vertebrae, which can lead to a narrowing of the spinal canal.
Symptoms of spinal stenosis
Common symptoms of spinal stenosis include
- Back or neck pain that occasionally radiates down into the arms or lower body
- Numbness in the arms or legs
- Weakness in the arms or legs
- Difficulty moving around
These symptoms will typically develop over time as the compression of the spinal canal worsens. Seek medical attention right away if you are experiencing any of these symptoms to prevent further injury.
Treatment for spinal stenosis
Conservative treatments for spinal stenosis include
- Anti-inflammatory pain relievers
- Physical therapy exercises that stretch and strengthen the back
- Steroid injections to relieve inflammation
In more extreme cases, surgery may be required to relieve inflammation and widen the spinal canal. There are several surgical procedures that can treat spinal stenosis, including
- Laminectomy: This procedure involves removing the lamina, which is the bony part of the back of the vertebra. Removing this part allows more space for the nerve bundles that run through the spinal canal and avoids irritation or pinching.
- Foraminotomy: This procedure removes part of the foramen (which is a bony part of the spine through which nerve roots travel to reach other parts of the body) so that the nerves are no longer compressed in the spine.
- Spinal fusion: If compression in the spine is caused by degenerated discs leading to crowding of the spinal canal, removing the affected disc and fusing the neighboring vertebrae can relieve pressure and improve stability in the spine.
An orthopaedic specialist will work with you to develop an individual course of treatment.
Treating spinal stenosis at OAR
Spinal stenosis can make it difficult to do the things you love. At OAR, our experienced team of orthopaedic specialists and surgeons are committed to offering innovative treatments to help relieve chronic and frustrating back pain so that you can start enjoying a life with less pain.
Only a doctor can tell you if you have this ailment. This is for informational purposes and should not be used in lieu of a doctor’s opinion.