Spinal Stenosis: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

 

Spinal stenosis a condition which makes the spinal canal to narrow. This condition causes chronic back pain and other problems. The spine consists of a series of connected vertebrae and discs that act as shock absorbers. The narrowing of the open spaces can put pressure on your spinal cord and the nerves that run to your arms and legs.

This condition mostly occurs in the lower back and the neck. In some cases, spinal stenosis may not show any symptoms, but in others, individuals complain of pain, numbness, tingling, bowel dysfunction, and muscle weakness. This disease commonly affects people between the age of 40-60, but this does not mean that young people are safe. They can also get the disorder.

Spinal stenosis is commonly caused by wear and tear or changes in the spine related to osteoporosis.When stenosis is severe, your doctor can recommend surgery to create additional spaces for the spinal cord and nerves.

Symptoms of spinal stenosis

Symptoms of this condition vary from the location of the stenosis. The signs and symptoms start gradually and worsen over time. The symptoms include;

  • In the neck– Cervical stenosis can cause weakness, tingling in the leg or arms, and numbness. In this case, patients commonly report tingling of the arm and constant imbalance. At times, nerves to the bowel or bladder become affected causing incontinence.
  • In the lower back (lumbar)-Due to the narrowing of the spaces in the lower spine, the nerves get compressed causing cramping in your legs when you walk or stand for long periods.

Spinal stenosis can be hectic to diagnose because its symptoms resemble those of many age-related conditions. The test can be used to pinpoint the causes of your signs and symptoms.

Diagnosis of Stenosis

Stenosis can be diagnosed through various methods. You doctor may request you to take one of the below tests for accurate diagnosis.

X-ray

Doctors use X- rays to reveal the bone changes such as bone flaws that may be narrowing the space in the spinal canal. They use limited exposure during the procedure. 

Magnetic resonance imaging (M.R.I)

Doctors prefer the use of M.R.I to diagnose spinal stenosis in most cases. M.R.I uses a strong magnet and radio waves to produce correctional images of your spine. This test can detect disc damage, tumors, and also show stress on the spinal cord and nerves.

C.T Myelogram

C.T scan is done after a contrast dye is injected, outlining the Spinal cord nerves and revealing the affected disc, bones or tumors.

Causes of Spinal Stenosis

Some patients are born with small spinal canals, but in most Cases of spinal stenosis occur when something happens, and the spaces in the spine reduce. These causes of spinal stenosis include;

Degenerative disc diseases

The Spinal discs are soft spongy cushions in the vertebrae, which act as shock absorbers. This degenerative disc disease occurs due to age and other factors. The degenerative disease may cause cracks in the disc’s exterior allowing escape of interior soft materials. This causes a loss of bone density that can cause stubborn and chronic back pain.

Overgrowth of bone

Paget’s disease of the bone affects the body’s normal recycle processes where new tissues slowly replace old bone tissues. This illness often occurs in the pelvis, skull, spine, and legs causing bones to be fragile and abnormal. This condition causes overgrowth of the bone leaving spaces in the spinal canal. As the patients grow old, they are at a higher risk of getting this disease.

 Thickened ligaments

A thickened ligamentum flavum is a degenerative spine condition where the ligaments stretch when you bend the ligaments decrease the available spaces in the spinal canal. The ligamentum flavum is a connective tissue that links your vertebrae together. In most cases, this condition may be irritating followed by a series of chronic back pain. In some situations, the back pain is mild.

Tumors

Can your back pain be a spinal tumor? Spinal tumors are rare but hazardous conditions that require agent medical attention. Commonly spinal tumors tend to occur in young adults; they are slow in growing and most spread from other areas of the body.

Spinal injuries

Spinal fractures or dislocation of one or more vertebras can occur when a patient has a major trauma or accidents. Dislocated bones can damage contents of the spinal canal causing spinal stenosis. Tissues swelling immediately after a back surgery can put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.

Treatment of Spinal Stenosis

Fortunately, there are various ways and steps to take in the treatment process of this disease. The conventional measures of spinal stenosis include;

Epidural Injections

The benefits of these injections include reduction of pain mainly in the legs. The benefits of these injections tend to be temporary lasting from a week up to a year. Patients experience benefits of epidural injections – improvement in health, reduction in painkiller intake and avoiding surgery. The steroids used in the injections reduce inflammation and calms the irritated nerves that cause pain.

Medication

Doctors prescribe muscle relaxers and desensitizing medication that is crucial in relieving back pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs may be effective in reducing and calming the symptoms. In cases of severe pain, short term courses of narcotic medication are recommended. The drugs side effects concern a lot of patients, that’s why it’s important to notify the doctor of your medical history and allergies.

Exercise

Physical therapy is a fundamental component of the spinal treatment program. Exercise is not a cure, but it is equally important. Patients should remain active to allow blood flow and strengthening of the back muscles. The key is to start slowly and begin with a prescribed or supervised exercising routine. After a period of therapy, you can advance to strength and tolerance building.

Surgery

In a case where the condition has advanced, a decompression surgery is required. To achieve a positive outcome, correct diagnosis is crucial. If there are too many areas of stenosis, an elective surgery is recommended. Patients do well after surgery and can go back to normal activities after healing.

Proper Dieting

Patients should adopt a diet that reduces high inflammation in the body. Include deep colored vegetables and fruits in your diet as they are an essential part of the anti-inflammation process. A good diet has lots of benefits, from providing nutrient to the body to giving it energy. Hydrate your body with adequate water a day as your spine consist of 90% fluids.

Diseases hinder you from being productive and useful in the society, so keeping your body healthy is key. Mild and chronic back pain should be dealt with before they become bigger problems.

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