Spinal Stenosis

Stenosis or narrowing of the spinal canal may involve a large or small portion of the vertebra. It may include the main spinal canal where the nerves branch out or the small openings on the sides of the spine where the nerves pass through.

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What is a Spinal Stenosis?

A spinal stenosis is a condition defined as the loss of space or narrowing of the spinal canal resulting in compression of the spinal cord or spinal nerves. When this change occurs, it may cause nerve damage resulting to numbness, tingling sensations, pain, and other symptoms.

How is spinal stenosis diagnosed?

A diagnosis of spinal stenosis can be made after thorough assessment of signs and symptoms, medical history, physical examination and imaging tests such as x-rays, MRI or CT scan/myelogram.


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    What are the causes of spinal stenosis?

    There are different causes of spinal stenosis. This condition may develop as a result of:

    • Aging – Degenerative changes due to aging may cause spinal stenosis. It happens when hardening and thickening of spine ligaments or tissues occur. This thickening may cause the bone surfaces to bulge and have rough edges or bone spurs.
    • Genetics – Spinal stenosismay be inherited from parents as an autosomal dominant genetic
    • Disc problems – Herniated disc, disc rupture, and disc degeneration can cause narrowing of the spinal canal
    • Spondylolisthesis – Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which one vertebra slips forward over another vertebra
    • Tumor – abnormal growth of cells
    • Overgrowth of bones – osteoarthritis can cause formation of bone spurs. Another cause is the abnormal overgrowth of bones in the spine due to a condition called Paget’s disease.
    • Other causes – Trauma or injury on the spine (fractures or dislocations) and scoliosis (abnormal sideway curvature of the spine). These conditions may damage the structure of the spinal canal and result to stenosis.

    What are the signs and symptoms of spinal stenosis?

    Signs and symptoms of spinal stenosis may vary depending on the location and severity of the stenosis and which spinal nerves are affected.

    • Pain – As the spinal cord or spinal nerves are squeezed/compressed, nerve communication between the body and the brain gets disrupted. This makes the brain perceive pain impulses originating at the site of stenosis.
    • Cramping – pinched nerve may result in reduced blood flow and neuropathy causing muscle cramps
    • Tingling, weakness and numbness – the compression of the nerves located at the affected spinal canal disrupts the nerve function causing numbness, weakness, and tingling sensation on the affected part
    • Impaired physical mobility – the narrowing may cause difficulty standing for long periods of time, as well as walking, and sitting in relation to cramping, pain, discomfort, loss of sensation, and weakness of the leg or feet.
    • Impaired elimination patterns – in severe cases, urinary urgency and incontinence occurs
    • Sleep disturbance – some patients with spinal stenosis reports of difficulty sleeping or staying asleep at night due to pain

    What are the treatment options for spinal stenosis?

    • Medications – these includes pain relievers, anti-epileptic drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs, and anti-depressants to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain
    • Steroid injections – Corticosteroids won’t fix stenosis but it may help reduce irritation, pain, and inflammation.
    • Physical therapy – It’s common for people who have spinal stenosis to avoid movement due to pain and weakness; however, inactivity can lead to muscle atrophy, more pain, and easy fatiguability. Stretching and exercise can be used to help improve strength, endurance, and flexibility/stability of the spine.
    • Decompression procedure – Decompression procedure involves the use of needle-like instruments to increase space in the spinal canal thereby removing nerve root impingement.
    • Surgery – if non-surgical treatment doesn’t work, surgery may be considered. The goals for surgery include creating space and widening of the spinal canal. Surgery can help relieve the pain and other symptoms of spinal stenosis.
    • Alternative therapies – Some patients believe that massage, acupuncture and chiropractic help relieve pain from spinal stenosis

    Treatment plans vary from patient to patient. Non-surgical treatment options may work to some and may not be as effective to others. If you think you have spinal stenosis, take note of the signs and symptoms and discuss everything during your appointment.

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