Spinal Stenosis is a narrowing or constricting of the cervical or lumbar column that produces pressure on the nerve roots that flows through the spinal canal. More specifically, spinal stenosis affects the Neura Foramina (the openings of the nerve roots to the spine).
Spinal stenosis can be generically present at birth or developed over time. Individuals who inherit such condition will have a smaller spinal canal. Alternatively, those who acquire can expect a gradual development of Stenosis that progresses over many years. As time passes, the Neura Foramina diminishes in size, essentially resulting in wear and tear.
Spinal Stenosis generally affects individuals between the ages of 50-75, regardless if male or female. Some individuals are born with a narrow spinal canal. Others may acquire it by means of injury to the spine or poor posture.
The Types of Spinal Stenosis and Symptoms:
There are two types of Spinal Stenosis. However, while different in name and locality, both types of spinal stenosis invoke symptoms and affect the body in a comparable manner.
Cervical Spinal Stenosis – This type of spinal stenosis affects the neck and upper back area of the body as nerves in the cervical spine are compressed. While patients are less likely to suffer this type of stenosis in comparison to its counterpart, Cervical Spinal Stenosis is found to be significantly more dangerous and severe. In some cases, patients who suffer from this type may experience severe symptoms that necessitate immediate care. Individuals with Cervical Spinal Stenosis may experience symptoms like:
- Pain, tingling and/or numbness that radiates from the neck down into the upper extremities.
- Severe weakness in the arms and legs.
- Difficulty maintaining balance and coordination when walking.
- Difficulty controlling bladder or bowel function.
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis – Lumbar Spinal Stenosis affects the lower back area of the body as nerves in the lumbosacral spine are narrowed. This type of stenosis is 75% more common than the Cervical Spinal Stenosis, and can usually affect the posture, gait and bowel function. Lumbar Spinal Stenosis is not as severe as its counterpart. Individuals with Lumbar Spinal Stenosis may experience symptoms like:
- Pain, tingling and/or numbness that radiates from the buttocks down into the thighs.
- Neurogenic claudication: cramping and weakness in the legs when walking or prolonged standing.
- Hot and cold sensation in the legs.
Causes of Spinal Stenosis:
Age: As part of the natural aging process, our spines begin to degenerate as we get older. The discs that cushion our spine begin to weaken over time, causing wear and tear to our vertebrae. In most cases, this leads to degenerative disc disease, which is a common condition that consequently causes our spines to narrow.
Genetics / Hereditary: If there are development problems and the spinal canal is too small at birth, then Stenosis may be diagnosed. Malformations of the spinal structure may essentially cause narrowing or compression of the spine. In other words, Scoliosis and other spinal diseases that were obtained at birth may result in Spinal Stenosis.
Obesity / Poor posture and Body Mechanics: Irregular positioning or excessive weight that places stress upon the spinal canal elevates the chances of suffering Spinal Stenosis. Poor posture and obesity more than likely increases the wear and tear of the cervical and lumbar spine.
Arthritis: Arthritis, or Osteoarthritis to be more specific, is the most common cause of Spinal Stenosis. Facet joints enlarge due to strain and stress once the discs between the vertebrae degenerate. As facet joints expand, it leaves less room for the spinal nerve to flow. This causes a narrowing of the cervical and lumbar column, which leads to Stenosis.
Tumors: Tumors can originate and grow within the vertebrae or tissues within the spinal canal. These abnormal growths can apply pressure on the spinal cord and envelop the Neura Foramina space, which in turn, narrows the spaces that allow the nerve roots to flow.
Spinal injuries and Trauma: Any injuries, dislocations or fractures that involve the vertebrae can essentially produce pressure and penetrate the nerve roots of the spinal canal.
Treatments for Spinal Stenosis
Treatments for Spinal Stenosis vary depending on the Stenosis type (whether cervical or lumbar) and the overall severity of the symptoms accompanied with the condition. However, with proper diagnostic studies, such as MRIs and X-Rays, HEALTHPOINTE will be able to provide the best effective options in treating your spinal symptoms.
HEALTHPOINTE’s treatment options for Spinal Stenosis ranges from minimally invasive procedures to surgical operations. Conservative and minimally invasive options are more favorable in this case, and this includes physical therapy, pain management, medications, epidural injections and/or other non-surgical treatments. Additionally, we will provide walkers and canes in order to support the patient. Assistant devices are known to help reduce pain when walking as patients can lean on them for support.
In severe cases, surgical options may be considered when conservative measures fail in treating the patient, or the symptoms are disabling in nature. Such surgical options include Foraminotomy, Surgical Decompression, laminectomy, and others. Be sure to discuss these options with a spine specialist.