Spinal stenosis

The pathway in the human body in which the spinal cord and nerves run through is called the spinal canal. When the spinal canal narrows it will increase the pressure that is put on the nerves. This condition is called spinal stenosis. Some people are born with a narrow spinal canal while some people develop it later in life. People who develop this condition as they age often think it is a normal part of the aging process or the development of arthritis in the back. Spinal stenosis can happen in the upper and lower back. Spinal stenosis can have a severe impact on your general well being and health and an evaluation should be done for in by a qualified medical doctor.

Lumbar spinal stenosis affects the nerves in the lower back. The pain one experiences from spinal lumbar stenosis can radiate down the back, buttocks or hips. If the pain starts off in the hip it will then move down one leg and that leg may feel weaker than the other leg. People who have spinal stenosis can also experience a general loss of balance. Many people who have spinal stenosis and who have severe symptoms of pain when standing will also notice an immediate reduction of that pain when they sit down. If the narrowing is severe enough the person suffering from lumbar spinal stenosis may also lose control of the bladder and bowels. Sexual function can be impaired and it can become very difficult to walk as well. Many people lose their sense of feeling in these areas of the body as well.

With cervical spinal stenosis, the nerves in the neck and arms are affected. People who have this condition will experience weakness in the shoulders, arms and neck. Cervical spinal stenosis makes it difficult for people to grasp things as well. Typically, the pain and weakness are only manifested on one side.

There can be many causes of spinal stenosis. Some of the most common causes for this condition are congenital. The person can be born with scoliosis or achodroplasia, which is a bone defect. Many times spinal stenosis is acquired through the process of aging. This condition is found very often in people over the age of 50. It can also be caused by a tumor or an injury to the spinal column. Paget’s disease is another cause of spinal stenosis. Degenerative diseases like arthritis also contribute to and affect this condition.

The treatment for spinal stenosis quite often includes physical therapy and the use of anti-inflammatory medications and pain medications unless the pain is unbearable and normal functioning becomes impossible. Muscle relaxants are also used. Some doctors may also try epidural cortisone treatments and nerve blocks to help ease the pain. Spinal surgery is a last resort and can be performed to open up the narrowed areas of the spinal canal. Doing this surgery with an endoscope is done by some doctors; others will use more traditional surgical methods. If the spinal cord is entirely compressed a laminectomy may become necessary where removal of bone and tissue is done to relieve the pressure. There are other alternative methods of treatment that include spinal adjustments from a chiropractor and massage. Acupuncture is also another alternative treatment.

Spinal stenosis affects more women than men and the symptoms of it can worsen over time. Diagnosis of this condition is done through an MRI for confirmation. When the pain goes away when one leans forward or sits down, this can be the first clue that the person has spinal stenosis. However, confirmation of the condition must be done by the MRI testing. Lumbar spinal stenosis sometimes gets confused with sciatica which is caused by a herniated disc so adequate testing must be done to confirm this condition.

Last updated on Nov 22nd, 2009 and filed under Neurological Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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