What Is Spinal Stenosis?

Learn about the symptoms and treatment options for spinal stenosis.

Learn about the symptoms and treatment options for spinal stenosis.

 

Stenosis is a Greek word that means narrowing. In medicine, stenosis is the abnormal narrowing of a passage in the body. Spinal stenosis specifically refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal.

 

The spinal cord and nerves are surrounded by bones (vertebrae) and ligaments (the dense bands of connective tissue that connect bones to other bones to form joints). In a normal spine, these surrounding structures provide comfortable canals in which the spinal cord and nerves live. When the bones and ligaments are damaged because of a disease or trauma, they can compete for the spaces in the spine. It’s no longer a cozy space when overgrown bones, displaced discs or thick ligaments take up residence in the canals. 

 

These unwanted guests can put pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves responsible for sending signals to the arms and legs, causing discomfort and, in some cases, pain.

Learn about the symptoms and treatment options for spinal stenosis.

 

Stenosis is a Greek word that means narrowing. In medicine, stenosis is the abnormal narrowing of a passage in the body. Spinal stenosis specifically refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal.

 

The spinal cord and nerves are surrounded by bones (vertebrae) and ligaments (the dense bands of connective tissue that connect bones to other bones to form joints). In a normal spine, these surrounding structures provide comfortable canals in which the spinal cord and nerves live. When the bones and ligaments are damaged because of a disease or trauma, they can compete for the spaces in the spine. It’s no longer a cozy space when overgrown bones, displaced discs or thick ligaments take up residence in the canals. 

 

These unwanted guests can put pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves responsible for sending signals to the arms and legs, causing discomfort and, in some cases, pain.

What Causes Spinal Stenosis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) – is a common cause of spinal stenosis. Previous injuries, overuse and genetics play a large role in how well our joints fare as we age, and how prone we are to developing OA, or degenerative joint disease. Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition of the joints, and typically occurs in the lower back and neck. As OA worsens, the vertebrae in the back and neck may break down and develop growths called bone spurs. These growths can move into the spinal canal. 

 

Although OA can occur in people of all ages, it’s most common in older people.

 

Paget’s Disease – This bone disease is an excessive breakdown and formation of bone replacement, and can cause pain and fractures.

 

Herniated Disc – When vertebral disc dehydrates and stiffens or is damaged, the jelly-like inner-core (the nucleus pulposus) can herniate, or protrude from, the protective surrounding it to inflame the nerve roots. 

 

Ligaments – When the tough band of ligaments that hold the bones together thicken, they can bulge into the spinal canal, pinching the spinal cord and nerves.

 

Tumors – Abnormal growths that form inside the spaces within the spine can affect the spinal nerves and cord.

 

Spinal Injuries – A car accident, a sports injury or a fall can cause dislocations and fractures of one or more vertebrae. The displaced bones and bone fragments can damage the contents of the spinal canal.

What You May Be Feeling

Neck Pain

Neck pains

Tingling

Tingling

Pain In Extremities

Pain In Extremities

Leg Numbness

Leg Numbness

Back Pain

Back Pain

Leg Weakness

Leg Weakness

 

When the spinal cord and nerves become compressed or pinched, a variety of symptoms may emerge in response. Symptoms commonly associated with Spinal Stenosis are back pain, neck pain, tingling, pain in the extremities, leg numbness and leg weakness.

 

In extremely rare cases a herniated disc in the lower back can compress the cauda equina. The cauda equina is a bundle of spinal nerves and nerve roots that send signals to the pelvic organs and lower limbs. People with cauda equina syndrome may experience bladder control issues, sexual function problems and leg paralysis. 

Potential Treatment Options

LAMINECTOMY

A laminectomy is a very common procedure that removes a portion of what is known as the lamina (which is the back part of the vertebra that covers the spinal canal) in order to create space in the area affected by the bulging disc.

LAMINOTOMY

A laminotomy is a spinal decompression surgery where only a very small portion of the lamina is removed to take pressure off the nerves and spinal cord for pain relief.

DISC REPLACEMENT

When the disc compresses the spinal cord or nerve root, replacement can be an option. The disc is replaced with an artificial disc to decompress the cord or nerves and preserve motion at the disc space.

Anterior Cervical Disc Fusion (ACDF)

During an ACDF, the damaged disc in the neck is removed, relieving pain and pressure. Then a reinforced implant takes its place, providing stability.

LUMBAR FUSION

During a lumbar fusion the damaged disc is removed from the lower back (lumbar spine), and the two vertebrae are fused together with a reinforced implant to create support.

Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA)

Also known as an RFA, this procedure uses high-energy radio frequency to ablate (or remove/vaporize) the troubled nerve, essentially eliminating the sensation of pain.

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