Spinal stenosis is a condition in which the open canal of your spine, which houses the spinal cord and nerves, narrows and closes down. “Stenosis” is from an ancient Greek word that literally means “narrowing.” This narrowing can put pressure on the spinal nerves, which can result in a lot of pain. The narrowing can also create compression on the spinal cord, causing weakness in the arms and legs.
Stenosis Causes & Symptoms
The most common causes of spinal stenosis are disc herniations, bone spurs, and overgrowth of the facet joints, which narrow the space available for your nerves
Stenosis of the spine is more common in the neck (the cervical region) or the low back (the lumbar region). As a result, symptoms are often found in these two areas, and can include any of the following:
- Tingling, weakness, or numbness in the extremities
- Leg cramps
- Pain in the neck, back, or legs
Severe cases, when the narrowing causes nerve damage, can also include loss of movement and loss of bladder control.
Diagnosing Spinal Stenosis
Imaging tests are essential to correctly diagnosing spinal stenosis. Many of the symptoms match other age related medical conditions, so a simple physical exam is not enough to come to an accurate diagnosis.
X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans may all be used to determine whether or not you have spinal stenosis.
Treatment of Spinal Stenosis
Treatment for spinal stenosis generally begins with conservative, non-surgical options such as:
- NSAIDs and other pain control medication
- Physical therapy
- Steroidal injections
These treatment options may only provide temporary pain relief though. A minimally invasive surgical procedure to open up the spaces in the spine (thus reducing the narrowing and freeing up any pinched nerves) is the generally the best option for long term pain relief.