Introduction to Spinal stenosis
Stenosis is the narrowing of space. Spinal stenosis is abnormal narrowing of the spinal space, compressing the spinal cord and its nearby nerves.
What is Spinal stenosis?
Stenosis is the narrowing of space. Spinal stenosis is abnormal narrowing of the spinal space, compressing the spinal cord and its nearby nerves. Most of the cases occur in lower back (lumbar stenosis), but this condition can also affect the neck (cervical stenosis).
What are the causes for Spinal stenosis?
There are many causes for this condition.
Arthritis like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are forms that may potentially affect the spine. It can also be caused by heredity where the spinal canal is small at birth, increasing risk of developing spinal stenosis at a younger age. As you age, the body’s ligaments (connective tissues between one bone to another) may thicken. Small growths may also develop on the bones and into the spinal canal. Slipping of the spine due to instability can also narrow the spinal canal. The intervertebral discs may also bulge into the canal, compressing it. Fractures, usually observed in osteoporosis may also cause compression. All these contribute to spinal stenosis. Repeated division of cells causing tumours can also directly affect the spinal canal by causing inflammation and growths pressing the nerves. Traumatic episodes of accidents and injuries can also dislocate the spine and the canal.
What are the symptoms of Spinal stenosis?
Common symptoms are standing discomfort, pain in the shoulder and arm, numbness and weakness. It can also result in low back pain as well as pain in the legs.
Cervical stenosis exhibits more dangerous symptoms like clumsy hands which may lead to paralysis and loss of sensation.
How is Spinal stenosis treated?
Treatments for spinal stenosis can be surgical or non-surgical.
One of the surgical procedure is lumbar decompressive laminectomy where the roof overlying the spinal canal and the thickened ligaments are removed to decompress the nearby nerves. It has been shown to have good results in 80% of the people. A U-shaped device is placed between the bones after a lumbar decompressive surgery tu support and stabilize the spine.
Non-surgical methods include changing your posture by leaning forward while walking to flex your spine. Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen can be taken to reduce swelling and pain. Your doctor may also educate you on how to relieve the symptoms by exercising to maintain good health. You may also be advised to cut down your weight to slow the progress of stenosis if you are overweight.