The spinal canal is the passageway for nerves and the spinal cord, and when the canal narrows, it’s referred to as spinal stenosis. Narrowing of the spinal canal compresses these nerves, triggering pain which travels along the back and legs. Depending on the location of the stenosis, a patient may experience various symptoms, but treatment options depend on the severity of nerve pressure versus its location.
Back injury, bone spurs, arthritis, bulging discs, and enlarged ligaments are conditions that can cause spinal stenosis. Since many of these issues occur over time and age, stenosis is common among people over 50. Spine canal narrowing is categorized by its location on the back and can be lumbar, thoracic or cervical.
How Spinal Stenosis Affects You
Severity and extent of spine canal compression doesn’t necessarily generate symptoms. The condition can be very advanced with a severe narrowing of the spinal canal, yet no indication of discomfort, or the the spinal condition could be very mild, but cause greater nerve pain from squeezed and irritated nerves within the spinal canal.
When symptoms are present, most individuals feel:
- Numbness, weakness, cramping, or pain in the legs, feet, or buttocks that worsen with walking or standing
- Stiff legs and thighs
- Low back pain
- Rib pain (thoracic stenosis)
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
There is little relationship between symptoms and severity of the condition, so the diagnostic capabilities of Dr. Khurana are critical when accurately identifying spine canal compression. Typical diagnostic exams include an MRI, CT scan, and x-rays. Additionally, a spinal surgeon may also perform a physical exam to gauge the level of pain and numbness. If you would like to learn more about what causes spine canal compression, please visit Wikipedia.
Spinal Canal Narrowing Treatment Options
When spinal stenosis is moderate and pain is limited, treatment typically begins with pain medicine and physical therapy. Your doctor may prescribe a mild painkiller, and therapy may soothe stress, reduce inflammation of the affected area, and help with pain management. Steroid shots are another treatment method used to minimize inflammation.
If more conservative treatment options aren’t effective, decompression surgery may be recommended. Injuries from an accident often require immediate treatment to correct the trauma, and often, surgery is the only choice. Decompression surgery removes the bone and tissue which are pressing against the nerves and causing pain. Additionally, spinal fusion surgery is also used to correct these disorders and certain causes of lower back pain. If you are suffering from numbness or lower back pain, please contact an orthopedic spine specialist today.
Next, learn about scoliosis and spinal deformity.