Spinal stenosis is a condition that leads to abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal which result in building pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. Spinal stenosis affects both men and women and it is most common among people over the age of 50.
Spinal stenosis develops when space between vertebrae or spinal bones narrow, this compresses the spinal canal, triggering it to pinch on the spinal cord and nerve root which mays lead to pain, weakness and numbness, especially in the legs and feet.
The vertebrae comprise 33 bones which are interlocking the bones to form the spinal canal. The spinal canal consists of the spinal cord, which covers from the base of the skull down via the lower back. At the base the spinal cord separates out into a bundle of nerve roots. These nerve roots branches out of the spinal canal via gaps in the vertebrae.
Spinal stenosis may be caused due to congenital abnormalities or acquired. Congenital spinal stenosis is seen from birth itself, as the spinal canal is very small. Acquired spinal stenosis is caused due to age-related changes and other health conditions. Also Read: Tips For A Healthier Spine
Osteoarthritis causes spinal stenosis in most patients, rheumatoid arthritis, Paget's disease and ankylosing spondylosis are other types of arthritis that may also lead to spinal stenosis. A medical disorder that may cause spinal stenosis includes a tumor in the spinal cord and spinal scoliosis. Various other conditions that lead to the compression of the spinal canal include:
Growth of bone called spurs on the vertebrae
Inflammation of the joints connecting the vertebrae
Hardening of the ligament that supports the spine
Symptoms may start slowly and get severe over time, but in severe cases, patients may experience complete or partial leg paralysis.
Diagnosis And Treatment
The doctor generally diagnoses spinal stenosis by performing a complete physical assessment and detailed medical history. Other tests recommended by the doctor include X-ray, CT scan, myelogram test and electromyogram.
Spinal stenosis may worsen if left untreated over time. As there is no complete cure for this condition, treatment aims at easing the symptoms and stabilizing the disorder. Pain-relieving medications and anti-inflammatory medication are given to lessen pain associated with disorder. In severe cases, a person may be suggested to go for spinal decompression surgery to alleviate the symptoms.
Physical therapy or exercise can assist the patients in strengthening the muscles of the legs, back and arms which promotes better balance and mobility. It is recommended that a person with spinal stenosis should exercise for 30 minutes per week for strengthening the muscles.