Spinal stenosis is a medical condition that involves the narrowing of the spinal canal, which puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots. This condition can cause debilitating pain that limits movement and activity. While spinal stenosis may occur anywhere along the spine, it is most common in the lower back and neck. Alliance Orthopedics offers comprehensive care for patients suffering from spinal stenosis and its associated symptoms.
Causes of Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis may be caused by various factors, many of which are related to aging and the wear and tear effects on the spine from everyday use. However, other circumstances and conditions may also contribute to the development of this condition. Understanding these causes is a crucial step in effectively managing and treating spinal stenosis. Here are some of the most common causes of spinal stenosis:
The intervertebral discs that separate and cushion vertebrae in the spine can rupture or bulge, causing them to press on nearby nerve roots. This condition is known as a herniated disc, and it is one of the most common causes of spinal stenosis. When the discs become damaged, they can narrow the space between vertebrae, leading to nerve roots or spinal cord compression.
As we age, our ligaments can become thicker and begin to encroach on the spinal canal. This may lead to spinal canal narrowing, resulting in nerve root and spinal cord compression. These symptoms may be made worse by a medical condition like osteoarthritis, which causes inflammation of joints throughout the body.
Bone spurs, also known as osteophytes, arise as a response to damage and pressure on the spinal column due to aging and arthritis. These bony projections develop along the edges of bones and can form on the spine, impinging on the space within the spinal canal. When these bone spurs encroach on the spinal canal, they can compress the nerves and the spinal cord, potentially leading to the painful symptoms of spinal stenosis. This process can occur gradually, with symptoms worsening over time.
Spinal injuries, such as those from physical trauma or accidents, can result in immediate spinal stenosis or contribute to its development over time. Fractures or dislocations of the vertebrae can cause pieces of bone to penetrate the spinal canal, causing direct damage and immediate compression of neural elements.
Moreover, complications from severe spinal injuries can include the formation of scar tissue that puts pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. Even after the initial injury has healed, this scar tissue may continue to cause persistent problems and contribute to the development of spinal stenosis.
Spinal Stenosis Symptoms
Spinal stenosis can present with a range of symptoms, often dependent on the affected part of the spine. These symptoms may vary widely in severity, from mild discomfort to debilitating pain and physical impairment, which may progressively worsen over time. It is important to note some individuals with spinal stenosis may not exhibit any symptoms. However, for those who do, the following are the most commonly reported symptoms:
- Pain, weakness, or numbness in the hands, arms, legs, or feet
- Back pain
- Problems with balance and coordination
- Cramping or pain in the legs when standing or walking for extended periods
- Bowel or bladder disturbances
- Neck pain
Treatment for spinal stenosis will depend on the severity and location of the condition, as well as any associated medical conditions. The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and help improve mobility. Non-surgical treatments are typically the first option and may include physical therapy, epidural steroid injections, and medications. In severe cases where these treatments are ineffective, surgery may be recommended to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.
At Alliance Orthopedics, our experienced providers provide comprehensive care for patients suffering from spinal stenosis. Our team of experts will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to your individual needs and lifestyle. If you are experiencing symptoms of spinal stenosis, contact us today to schedule an appointment.