Spinal stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal and the reduction in size of the openings in the bony vertebral canal through which nerves can exit and branch out. Spinal stenosis may be caused by any number of factors and can be a potentially serious medical condition.
Spinal stenosis has been associated with:
- The aging process and degeneration of the spine
- Development of bone spurs along the spine
- Arthritis that can enlarge and inflame joints
- Thickening ligaments
- Injury to the back
Stenosis refers to the narrowing of any passageway in the body, in this case, narrowing of the spinal canal. The spinal canal contains the spinal cord, out of which branch the nerves to the entire body.
Although very rare, sometimes people with stenosis may experience loss of bowel or bladder control or loss of feeling or extreme weakness in one or both legs. Seek emergency medical help at once if this occurs as this is a sign of cauda equina syndrome. Cauda equina syndrome may be life threatening. If you or someone in your family experiences such symptoms, seek emergency medical help at once.
Stenosis can occur at any point along the spine. Symptoms can vary somewhat based on the level of the spine where the stenosis occurs.
Cervical stenosis (neck)
- Neck pain
- Pain, weakness or numbness in the shoulders, arms, or hands
- Electric shock like sesnsation in the upper and/or lower limbs with neck movements
- Impaired motor function (especially manual coordination) e.g. buttoning a shirt
- Difficulty with balance or walking
- Back pain
Lumbar stenosis (lower back)
- Pain, weakness or numbness in the buttocks and legs
- Difficulty walking or standing for long periods
- Pain that can be relieved by sitting down or leaning forward
- Foot problems
Typically, stenosis starts gradually and worsens over time. Stenosis will not improve or go away on its own. For that reason, individuals who are concerned about stenosis should seek expert medical care.
Fortunately, there are effective ways to treat spinal stenosis. Conservative treatments include medication to control pain and inflammation along with physical therapy. Sometimes steroid injections are recommended.
Although not appropriate for everyone, surgery may also be used to treat stenosis. In most of the cases we use minimally invasive decompressive procedures. Using the microscope and tubes in order to create more room for the nerves (“decompression”). In case of persistent spine instability, decompression may be combined with a spinal fusion procedure to help stabilize the spine.
The course of treatment for stenosis is highly individual and depends on the patient’s overall condition, age, severity of the stenosis, and personal preferences.
Spinal stenosis is a potentially serious medical condition, but with expert care from hospitals, patients, it can be safely and effectively treated. The prognosis of an individual patient depends on the extent of the stenosis and the patient’s age and overall health.
There are risk factors for spinal stenosis cannot be controlled: advancing age, the presence of spinal tumours, dwarfism, and trauma to the spine. Patients with arthritis are at greater risk of developing spinal stenosis than patients without arthritis.
Spinal stenosis refers to a narrowing of the spinal canal. This narrowing typically occurs gradually and symptoms worsen as the condition progresses. The most common symptoms are pain, muscle weakness, and pain or improper function in the extremities with progressive decrease of walking distance. Although rare, cauda equina syndrome (associated with loss of bowel or bladder control) is a severe complication of spinal stenosis and requires emergency medical intervention. Appropriate treatment of spinal stenosis depends on an accurate diagnosis.