Spinal stenosis is a condition characterized by narrowing the spinal canal. It can affect any part of the spine but is mostly common in the lumbar and cervical parts.
Degeneration of the spinal column and discs, trauma, bone spurs and injuries of the spine are some of the factors that can lead to Spinal stenosis. The narrowing in the spinal canal compresses the nerves that are passing through, which produces the Stenosis. There are two types of Spinal Stenosis:
- Congenital Stenosis, which mostly occurs as a result of a particular disease, but some people may be born with a narrow spinal canal.
- Acquired stenosis that happens due to spinal degeneration.
Spinal stenosis occurs when something reduces the normal space in the spinal canal, even though some people may be born with a narrow spinal canal. The most common causes of lumbar or cervical stenosis include:
- Disc herniation which compresses the spinal nerves
- Spinal injuries from car accidents or other major trauma of the spine
- Overgrowth of the bone due to osteoarthritis
- Tumors growing inside the spinal cord and narrowing the canal
- Thickened ligaments that became stiff over time and are narrowing the spinal canal.
Depending on the site of narrowing the spinal stenosis will cause different symptoms.
- Lumbar spinal stenosis will develop sciatica with lower back pain and numbness and weakness that radiates through one or both legs. Cramping and aching when walking or standing can be experienced as well.
- Cervical spinal stenosis will usually manifest as a neck pain that extends to the shoulders and arms, accompanied with weakness and tingling sensation in the arms and hands. Sometimes Cervical spinal stenosis may cause problems in the balance and the ability to walk.
Spinal stenosis is diagnosed with a physical exam and image tests, such as X-ray and MRI. Nerve conduction tests may be performed to rule out other conditions that may be causing the pain. Treatments for Spinal stenosis include:
- Anti Inflammatory medication
- Steroid injection
- Physical Therapy
- Minimally invasive surgery to create more space in the spine and relieve pressure on the spinal cord