Spinal stenosis describes narrowing inside the spinal canal and mainly occurs from a combination of aging and degenerative changes in the spine. Wear and tear on the parts of the spine can cause discs to bulge, spine ligaments to thicken, and joints near the spinal canal to become enlarged. These can take up space inside the spinal canal and put pressure on the spinal nerves.
WHAT IS SPINAL STENOSIS?
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of one or more areas of the spine. This narrowing, which occurs most often in lumbar region can put pressure on the spinal cord or nerves branching out from the compressed areas.
WHO GETS SPINAL STENOSIS?
This disorder is most common in men and women over 50 years of age. However, it may occur in younger people who are born with a narrowing of the spinal canal or who suffer an injury to the spine.
WHAT CAUSES SPINAL STENOSIS?
Spinal stenosis usually occurs in older people due to years of wear and tear of the spine. The changes that happen from this process include thickened ligaments, bone spurs, facet joint enlargement, and bulging discs.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF SPINAL STENOSIS?
When present, symptoms may include pain, or numbness or cramping in the legs, with or without back pain. Weakness in the legs may occur. Rarely, bowel and/or bladder problems can occur. Symptoms are often worse with prolonged standing or walking. Bending forward or sitting increases the room in the spinal canal and may lead to reduced pain or complete relief from pain.
HOW IS SPINAL STENOSIS DIAGNOSED?
Your physician will take a history and perform a physical examination. X-ray studies may be ordered that may reveal evidence of narrowed discs and/or thickened facet joints. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study may be obtained for a more detailed evaluation of spinal structures.
HOW IS SPINAL STENOSIS TREATED?
The initial treatment for stenosis is to treat the symptoms rather than the condition itself. These treatments include:
- Medication such as NSAID to relieve inflammation and pain
- Physical therapy
- Posture changes
- Losing weight
- Corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation and relieve pain
If your condition is causing only mild symptoms and does not appear to be getting worse, your doctor may have you work with a physical therapist. A well-rounded rehabilitation program assists in calming pain and inflammation, improving your mobility and strength, and helping you do your daily activities with greater ease and ability.
Surgery is reserved for that small percentage of patients whose pain cannot be relieved by non- surgical treatment methods. Surgery will also be advised for those individuals who develop progressive leg weakness, or bowel and bladder problems.
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