Stenosis of the spinal column (the spinal cord) results in a narrowing of the space around the cord, compressing a segment of nerve tissue. In addition to pain, numbness, weakness, and tingling sensations in one or both legs, spinal stenosis is often accompanied by peripheral neuropathy. As a result, walking may become difficult and painful.
Women and men over 50 years of age are most likely to develop spinal stenosis. Many people with spinal stenosis are younger and have a narrow spinal canal or have been in an accident that has injured their spine. Spinal stenosis may appear slowly over time or may have no symptoms at all. There are several conservative treatments for lumbar spinal stenosis, including the use of pain medications, physical therapy, injections of steroid hormones, and acupuncture. A chronic condition may require surgery to be treated. Stenosis of the spine is typically caused by osteoarthritis-induced wear and tear. The removal of inflamed nerves and the extension of the spinal cord may be recommended in severe cases of spinal stenosis.
According to the location of the condition in the spine, spinal stenosis can be categorized into different types. Several types can exist at the same time. Spinal stenosis can be classified into two types:
Cervical stenosis: Your neck is involved in this condition because the narrowing occurs there.
Lumbar stenosis: The narrowing of the spine occurs at the lower back region in this condition. Spinal stenosis of this type is the most common.
On an MRI or CT scan, many people can be detected with spinal stenosis but may not exhibit any symptoms. It usually begins slowly and gets worse over time when they do occur. Based on the location and type of stenosis, the symptoms will vary.
In the neck (The Cervical Spine)
In the lower back (lumbar spine)
You will be asked about your medical history, symptoms, and a physical examination will be conducted by your healthcare provider. As part of your physical examination, your provider may feel your spine, pressing on different areas to see if there is pain there. To determine whether different spine positions cause pain or other symptoms, your provider will likely ask you to bend in different directions. In addition to testing your balance, your provider will also watch how you walk and how strong your arms and legs are.
The doctor will use imaging tests to assess the condition of your spine and determine its type, location, and extent. The following imaging studies may be necessary:
X-ray: An X-ray is an inexpensive method of examining the bone structure, such as determining loss of disk height or the presence of bony spurs affecting the area of the spinal cord.
MRI: Cross-sectional images of the spine are obtained with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which uses radio waves and a powerful magnet. Neurological, disk and spinal cord MRI images provide detailed insights into potential tumors.
CT or CT myelogram: A computed tomography (CT) scan is a combination of X-rays that provides a cross-sectional view of your spine. A CT myelogram gives a contrast dye for better vision of nerves and the spinal cord.
A stenosis treatment depends on what is causing your symptoms, where the problem is located, and how severe they are. You may be advised to apply self-care remedies first if your symptoms are mild. Physical therapy, medication, and, eventually, surgery may be recommended if these approaches don’t help and the symptoms worsen.
Self-help remedies include:
On the other hand, the non-surgical treatments include:
For complex cases, spine surgery may be required. A surgical procedure can be performed to remove bony growths on facet joints or disks that are pressing on the spinal cord. These operations create additional space in the spine, often relieving symptoms of spinal stenosis. After surgery, some people experience the same symptoms or worsen. A blood clot might form in a vein in a leg or neurological damage may occur. Infections and tears in the membrane protecting the spinal cord are other surgical risks.
Spinal stenosis typically occurs in people over 50. Younger people may develop spinal stenosis due to degenerative changes, but there are other possibilities. Among them are trauma, genetic disease that affects the development of bones and muscles, and congenital spinal deformity such as scoliosis. It is possible to distinguish these causes by using a spinal image.
In general, no! Most spinal stenosis is caused by the normal aging process of wearing down the bones and structures in the spine. A herniated disk, on the other hand, often recovers on its own after a short period of rest or can be treated with physical therapy, spinal injections, or anti-inflammatory medications to treat the issue.