Spinal Stenosis

 

Overview
The spinal column contains open spaces that create passageways for the spinal cord and the spinal nerves. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of (or an intrusion into) these openings. This can cause a compression of the nerves. Spinal stenosis most commonly affects the cervical and lumbar regions of the spine.

 



Anatomy
Each vertebra has a large opening at the rear
called the spinal canal. In the cervical and thoracic
regions of the spine, the spinal cord travels through
this space. In the lumbar region of the spine, this
opening contains a bundle of nerve roots. Openings
called foramina branch away from the spinal canal.
These spaces provide pathways for the nerve roots
that travel from the spine to other parts of the body.

Stenosis
In a spine with stenosis, one or more of these
openings are narrowed. The spinal nerves can
become compressed against the vertebral bone.
This can interfere with nerve function. It can cause
pain in the spine or in other parts of the body.

Causes
Stenosis is commonly caused by an excess growth
of bone around the spinal nerves. This excess bone
growth often results from osteoarthritis. Stenosis
can also result from a dislocation or a fracture of
the vertebral bone. Stenosis can be caused by soft
tissue intruding into the spine’s open spaces.
Herniated discs, tumors, and thickened spinal
ligaments can press against the spinal nerves. And
in some cases, a person is born with a small spinal
canal that does not provide enough room for the
spinal nerves.

Symptoms
Symptoms of spinal stenosis can vary depending
on the location and severity of the problem. Spinal
stenosis can cause pain, weakness, numbness and
tingling in the arms and legs. Spinal stenosis in the
lower back commonly causes sciatica, a sensation
of burning pain that can travel through the buttocks
and down the legs. Spinal stenosis can also cause
problems with control of the bladder and bowels.

Treatment
Treatment options for spinal stenosis may include
anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants
and medications to relieve pain. Steroid injections
may be beneficial. A physician may also
recommend physical therapy. If these methods are
not effective, surgery may be needed to eliminate
pressure on the nerves.