Spinal stenosis

Stenosis is usually defined as abnormal narrowing of your blood vessel or any other tubular structure. Spinal stenosis is described as the narrowing of the openings in the spinal cord. This condition creates pressure on the surrounding nerves creating pain, numbness, tingling, muscle weaknesses and other problems. The condition may be congenital or a part of age-related degenerative cascade or may result from conditions such as osteoarthritis leading.

Your spine, also known as vertebral column or backbone, is made of 26 bones that provide stability and support to the upper part of your body. A healthy spine is comprised of strong muscles and bones, sensitive nerves, and flexible tendons and the ligaments. If there is an injury in any of these structures, it may lead to problems with walking, balance, and sensation.

Signs and Symptoms

In many cases, spinal stenosis remains unnoticed. The signs and symptoms appear slowly and progress over time depending on the extent of compression of the nerves. The location of the condition often affects the intensity and type of symptoms.

  • If the spinal stenosis occurs in the neck or cervical region, the symptoms include weakness, numbness, lower back pain while standing or walking, balancing problems, or tingling sensation in your leg or foot and arm or hand. Incontinence is the main problem as the nerves to the bladder or bowel is affected.
  • If the stenosis occurs in the lower back, the nerves in your lumbar spine are compressed which can cause pain or cramping in your legs.

Self- management

Adopt the following strategies to reduce the symptoms of spinal stenosis:

  • Use of pain killers
  • Application of heat or cold packs
  • Maintain proper diet and nutrition
  • Use of assistive aids such as canes and walkers

Causes and risk factors

The primary cause of spinal stenosis is increasing age. Aging is associated with certain degenerative processes in our body. The conditions that can cause spinal stenosis include the following:

  • Formation of bone spurs in the spinal canal (conditions such as osteoarthritis)
  • Herniated disks
  • Bulging of thickened ligaments into the spinal cord
  • Formation of abnormal cells or tumors in the spinal cord
  • Spinal injuries

Conditions such as Paget’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, scoliosis, congenital spinal defects, and achondroplasia increase the risk of spinal stenosis.

Complications

Spinal stenosis can be treated effectively. Rarely, the untreated condition may progress and cause permanent numbness, weakness, balance problems, incontinence, and paralysis.

Your doctor begins the diagnosis by taking a medical history and performing physical examination. Physical examination involves checking for signs and symptoms of spinal stenosis and the observing your movements. Your doctor recommends the following tests to confirm the diagnosis.

  • Imaging tests: The imaging tests such as X-ray, Computed tomography (CT) scan, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provide detailed images of your spinal cord and can reveal the structural changes.
  • Electromyelogram: The test is used to check the health of your spinal nerves.

Your doctor determines the spinal stenosis treatment based on the location (either cervical or lumbar) and the severity of the signs and symptoms. Spinal stenosis treatment varies depending on the location of the stenosis and the severity of your signs and symptoms.

Medications: Your doctor may prescribe medicines that help to relieve symptoms. These medications include nonsteroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs, and opioid analgesics. Physical Therapy : Muscle weakness and pain can make you less active. Physical therapy can help to build up your strength and endurance, maintain the flexibility and stability of the spine, and to improve your balance. Steroid injections : Administration of intravenous corticosteroid into the affected area can help reduce the inflammation and relieve pressure.
  • Surgery : It is performed when the conservative treatments failed to treat the condition. Your doctor suggests any of the following surgical procedures:
  • Laminectomy: This procedure involves the removal of the part (lamina) of the affected vertebra.
  • Laminotomy: This procedure removes only a portion of the lamina and allows decompression of the spinal cord or the spinal nerves.
  • Laminoplasty: This procedure is performed only on the vertebrae in the neck region.