Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces within your spine, which can put pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine. Others may experience pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness. Symptoms often start gradually and worsen over time. Spinal stenosis is most commonly caused by wear-and-tear changes in the spine related to osteoarthritis. In severe cases of spinal stenosis, doctors may recommend surgery to create additional space for the spinal cord or nerves. Most people with spinal stenosis are over the age of 50. There are two main types of spinal stenosis: 1. Cervical stenosis. where the narrowing occurs in your neck. 2. Lumbar stenosis where the narrowing occurs in the lower back.
Symptoms of spinal stenosis
Neck (cervical spine)
- Numbness or tingling in a hand, arm, foot or leg
- Weakness in a hand, arm, foot or leg
- Problems with walking and balance
- Neck pain
- In severe cases, bowel or bladder dysfunction (urinary urgency and incontinence)
Lower back (lumbar spine)
- Numbness or tingling in a foot or leg
- Weakness in a foot or leg
- Pain or cramping in one or both legs when you stand for long periods of time or when you walk, which usually eases when you bend forward or sit
- Back pain
Causes of spinal stenosis
The backbone (spine) runs from your neck to your lower back. The bones of your spine form a spinal canal, which protects your spinal cord (nerves). Some people are born with a small spinal canal. But most spinal stenosis occurs when something happens to narrow the open space within the spine, such as the following :
- Overgrowth of bone. Wear and tear damage from osteoarthritis on your spinal bones can prompt the formation of bone spurs, which can grow into the spinal canal.
- Herniated disks. The soft cushions that act as shock absorbers between your vertebrae tend to dry out with age. Cracks in a disk’s exterior may allow some of the soft inner material to escape and press on the spinal cord or nerves.
- Thickened ligaments. The tough cords that help hold the bones of your spine together can become stiff and thickened over time. These thickened ligaments can bulge into the spinal canal.
- Tumors. Abnormal growths can form inside the spinal cord, within the membranes that cover the spinal cord or in the space between the spinal cord and vertebrae. These are uncommon and identifiable on spine imaging with an MRI or CT.
- Spinal injuries. Car accidents and other trauma can cause dislocations or fractures of one or more vertebrae. Displaced bone from a spinal fracture may damage the contents of the spinal canal. Swelling of nearby tissue immediately after back surgery also can put pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.
In severe cases of spinal stenosis, doctors may recommend surgery to create additional space for the spinal cord or nerves.
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Physio in Tralee specializing in the treatment of back pain, neck pain, foot pain and sports injuries.