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Understanding Stenosis: 5 Things You Need To Know Today

Dec 21, 2017

woman experiencing back pain from stenosis

Your spine is made up of a series of bones called vertebrae that support your upper body and enable you to twist, bend, and turn. A cavity that runs inside of your vertebrae (spinal canal) houses the spinal cord and the nerves that connect to other parts of the body. Stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal, which compresses the spinal cord.

The Different Types of Stenosis

There are different types of stenosis, and the type is classified by where along the spine the narrowing occurs:

Cervical stenosis

This type of stenosis results from narrowing of the upper portion of the spine located in your neck.

Lumbar stenosis

This is the most common type of stenosis which affects a portion of the spine in the lower part of your back.

Not Everyone’s Symptoms Are the Same

The symptoms of stenosis can vary from person-to-person. Some have no symptoms at all, while others can have symptoms that range from very mild to debilitating. Symptoms tend to be gradual, worsening as time goes on. Your symptoms also depend on the type of stenosis.

Cervical stenosis can cause:

  • Neck pain
  • Tingling, numbness, or weakness in your arm, hand, leg, or foot
  • Problems with balance and walking

Lumbar stenosis can cause:

  • Back pain
  • Leg pain, usually worsened by standing for long periods or walking
  • Tingling, numbness, or weakness in your leg or foot

There Are Several Possible Causes of Stenosis

Some people are simply born with a narrow spinal canal, but in most cases, it is caused by one of the following:

Osteoarthritis

Wear and tear on the spinal bones can cause an overgrowth of bone called bone spurs to form. When bone spurs grow into the spinal canal, it narrows the space around the spinal cord.

Herniated/bulging discs

Discs acts as cushions between the vertebrae to absorb the shock of your movements and keep the vertebrae from touching. Damage from wear and tear or injury can cause the gel-like material on the inside of your disc to escape into the spinal canal and press your spinal cord or nerves.

Thickened ligaments

The ligaments that hold your spinal bones together become thicker and stiffer over time, which can cause them to spread into the spinal canal.

Tumors and trauma from an accident are other, less common causes of stenosis.

Some People Have a Higher Risk

If you were born with a spinal deformity, such as scoliosis, your risk of developing stenosis is higher. Your risk of stenosis also increases as you age because of the degenerative changes in the spine that occur.

Serious Complications Are Possible When Left Untreated

In most cases, spinal stenosis can be treated using a combination of non-invasive treatments. Serious complications are possible if left untreated and may include:

  • Balance issues
  • Difficulty walking because of weakness and numbness
  • Incontinence
  • Though extremely rare, paralysis is another possible complication of stenosis that is not treated.

Fortunately, stenosis is treatable and when mild may be managed using medication and physical therapy. For more severe symptoms, you may require a spinal decompression procedure to help widen the space around the affected nerve. Other minimally-invasive spine surgeries are available depending on the cause of your condition, such as repairing or replacing a herniated or ruptured disc. Your treatment will depend on how severe your symptoms are, your type of stenosis, and the cause. At BPC, we can help you find the treatment you need close to home. Call us today at 1-844-201-1308 to learn more about our treatment options that can get you back to enjoying your best life sooner!

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