A Narrowing of the Spinal CanalAt MiVIP, our minimally invasive spine surgeons are experts at diagnosing and treating painful and degenerative back ailments like spinal stenosis. Typically a cause of degenerative joint disorder, spinal stenosis is a condition where the spinal canal, or the open spaces in the vertebrae, narrows.
Spinal stenosis is also called lumbar spinal stenosis and cervical spinal stenosis, depending on where the affected area is located along the spine. Lumbar stenosis affects the lower back and cervical stenosis affects the neck.
How Common is Spinal StenosisLumbar stenosis is the most common form of stenosis and affects approximately 9 percent of the population. Research indicates that as baby boomers grow older, lumbar stenosis will affect approximately 2.5 million Americans by the year 2021. The large majority of patients with this condition are over 50 years old.
What Causes Spinal StenosisSpinal Stenosis is often caused by:
- Age – As an individual increases in age, the spinal discs have a greater chance of drying out of herniating. Bone spurs can develop, joints may break down and the spine can compress due to osteoporosis.
- Heredity – Some people are born with a spinal canal that is too small. Other structural deformities are present at birth, causing the spine to narrow.
- Trauma – When accidents dislocate the spine, or spinal fragments are forced through the canal, narrowing can occur.
- Tumors – Often inflammation due to spinal tumors can press on the spinal cord and cause the spaces between the spine to constrict.
Spinal Stenosis SymptomsSymptoms of spinal stenosis depend on whether or not the zone affected is the lumbar or cervical area. The common symptoms per area include:
- Neck – A foot, leg, arm or hand might be weak, numb or tingle. In extreme cases, the individual with cervical stenosis may have incontinence as the nerves to the bowel and bladder are distressed.
- Lower Back – Excessive walking or standing may cause pain and cramping of the legs. Patients notice that the pain subsides after bending forward or sitting.
How to Treat Spinal StenosisCommon treatment options for spinal stenosis include:
- Medication – Pain relievers and muscle relaxants can help control associated pain. Steroid injections are a popular option to help reduce isolated pain and relieve spinal pressure.
- Therapy – In many cases, physical therapy is effective at increasing strength, improving balance and maintaining spinal flexibility.
- Surgery – If conservative treatments are ineffective, or if extreme spinal stenosis has led to disability, surgery may be the most useful option. A laminectomy is often used to relieve the pressure that is placed on the nerve roots or spinal cord, and a foraminotomy may be required to open up the small gaps between the vertebrae.