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Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spaces within a patient’s spine. This can lead to pinching of the nerves that travel through the spinal cord. Patients experience many of the symptoms associated with nerve damage in the spine. Spinal stenosis is of two types based on the location of the condition. If the stenosis occurs in the neck, it is known as cervical stenosis, and if it appears in the lower back, it is known as lumbar stenosis.

Spinal stenosis can occur due to a myriad of reasons. Most forms of stenosis occur due to a reduction in the open space within the spine, which houses the spinal cord. Conditions include:

  • Bone overgrowth: Formation of bone spurs in the spine as a result of wear and tear. These bone spurs can grow into the spinal canal, leading to spinal stenosis. This can occur as a result of osteoarthritis and Paget’s disease.
  • Disc herniation: Herniation of the shock-absorbing discs between the spinal vertebrae due to wear and tear due to age or other underlying issues.
  • Due to the thickening of the spinal ligaments over time. This is also a result of wear and tear but could be caused due to other underlying issues.
  • Tumors: Tumors in the spinal region can lead to added pressure and stress on the spine. This can lead to pinching in the spine, leading to stenosis.
  • Spinal injuries- Injuries to the back can lead to spinal stenosis due to inflammation and swelling or due to fractures in the spinal vertebrae.

Though all of these causes act differently, the core result is the same – the area within the spinal vertebrae is reduced.

Depending on the type of stenosis, a patient may experience different symptoms. In cervical stenosis, the patient may feel pain, numbness, tingling, and weakening in the arm, foot, or leg. Besides the pain, patients may also experience reduce motor control as a result of weakened muscles. This can lead to problems with walking and balance. Since cervical stenosis occurs in the neck, patients often experience neck pain. With lumbar stenosis, the conditions are usually waist down. A patient may experience pain, numbness, tingling in all parts of the lower body. This can make walking, standing up, and sitting down extremely painful. As with cervical stenosis, since lumbar stenosis occurs in the lower back, patients usually experience pain in this region. Additionally, patients may have bladder and bowel dysfunction due to spinal nerve damage. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms described above, please consult a doctor at the earliest.

The diagnosis of spinal stenosis is performed via physical examination, investigating a patient’s medical history and imaging scans. The doctor may look for signs of swelling or inflammation in the spine by gently pressing in the discomfort regions. Imaging scans such as X-rays and CT scans give more insight into the condition, helping narrow down the stenosis’s exact location and severity.

The use of anti-inflammatory medication and pain-killers can help improve the spine’s condition while also reducing the discomfort a patient experiences. Treatment may also include physical therapy involving stretching and muscle strengthening exercises. Patients may also be advised to wear a back brace to prevent unnecessary movement in the spine. If the patient’s condition is severe and the other forms of treatment do not work, surgery may be required.