FAQ’s on Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis refers to a condition that involves the narrowing of a particular area of the spine, be it the central canal through which the spine and nerves run, openings between the spinal cords from where the nerves are attached to other parts of the body or canals holding the base of nerve roots. This narrowing of the spine results in compression on the spinal cord and nerves, resulting in obstruction of signals from the brain to the body and vice-versa.
What are the Causes of Spinal Stenosis?
This condition may be inherited or acquired. In case of inherited spinal stenosis, the spine and nerve roots may be compressed due to an inherently small canal or a curve in the spine (a condition that is known as scoliosis). Achondroplasia, another inherited condition which relates to the defective formation of bones in the body, may also trigger spinal stenosis.
Acquired spinal stenosis, can be triggered by a variety of factors. Degenerative conditions, usually associated with progressing age, where the bones and ligaments begin to change their structure and are inflamed can lead to spinal stenosis. Spondylolisthesis, a condition where spinal vertebra move from their original position to overlap one another, herniated disks, Pagets disease, that results in abnormal enlargement of bones, trauma caused by accidents or injuries, presence of tumor on the spine and calcification of ligaments in and around the spine are some of the major known causes of acquired spinal stenosis.
What are the symptoms?
Patients suffering from spinal stenosis may complain of weakness, pain and numbness in the affected area. In case of cervical (around the neck) stenosis, these symptoms are experienced in the arms. In lumbar (lower back region) stenosis, a patient presents these symptoms in the legs. One of the serious fall-outs of lumbar stenosis is dysfunction of bowel and bladder movements. These symptoms are indicative of immediate surgical intervention to relieve pressure on the spine.
How is spinal stenosis diagnosed?
Diagnosis begins with a detailed evaluation of patient’s medical history. A patient should be forthcoming in sharing every possible detail of any previous medical condition and current symptoms. This is usually followed up with a physical and neurological examination. Tests such as MRI, CT scan, X-ray and bone scan may be ordered to validate the diagnosis.
What are the treatment options?
Your doctor may initiate you on physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medicines, oral and epidural steroids. Some doctors strongly recommend weight loss initiatives to relieve symptoms of pain and numbness. Alternative therapies such as magnet therapy and acupuncture can also prove beneficial. A spinal surgery is often the last resort in case of spinal stenosis. The surgery involves removing of excess soft tissue, bones, and ligament to decompress the nerves.