Close look on spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis arises once bulging discs, arthritis spurs and dense tissues combine to crush the nerves moving through the spinal canal.

Due to the aging process, the spinal canal in the low back becomes narrow which leads to spinal stenosis. The tapering process is gradual and decreases the space available for the spinal cord and nerves. In case the narrowing is minor, there is no pain. The condition might also lead to numbness, leg pain, and/or tingling. In advanced cases, weakening might also be manifest.

spinal-stenosis
The leg pain and numbness might disrupt with walking and the spine might lose the lumbar curve and appear flat.

Indications

The indications of spinal stenosis include:

  • Pain
  • Numbness and/or tingling in the legs that is evident while walking or standing

The leg pain and numbness might disrupt with walking and the spine might lose the lumbar curve and appear flat. Since one bends slightly over while walking uphill, the symptoms might be lessened while going uphill and worse while going down.

There is relief when bending forward or sitting. Once the condition becomes severe, the symptoms might become continuous and even result to permanent nerve injury.

The condition is likely to occur among the elderly while arthritis and injuries can also result to the narrowing of the spinal cord.

Management of spinal stenosis

Medical treatment

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain relief
  • Cortisone injections directly into the spinal column for brief relief
  • Regular exercise and a physical therapy program that centers on strengthening of the abdominal and back muscles along with stretching

In case these measures could not ease the pain and ability to perform daily activities, surgery might be considered.

Surgical treatment

The objective of surgery for spinal stenosis is to permanently decompress the spinal canal.

The commonly used types of spinal surgery include:

  • Laminectomy – the commonly used surgery for spinal stenosis which involves removal of the lamina or part of the vertebra to allow space for the nerves
  • Foraminotomy – the procedure involves the expansion of the foramen to provide space for the nerve roots
  • Spinal fusion – the procedure is done if there is instability and involves linking the bones together using bone grafts or screws for stability of the spine.

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