Spinal Stenosis symptoms are frequently described by people who report pain radiating to legs and arms.
The space within the spine where spinal nerves and cord are located is called the foramina, Spinal Stenosis is the narrowing of one or more of the foramina, which causes a compression of the spinal nerves. The narrowing of the spinal canal can also affect the spinal cord.
This condition most commonly affects older people, but young people, although rare, can also be affected by this condition.
People with Spinal Stenosis report pain and numbness when walking, some people can walk up to 500m when they need to rest, while others can only walk about 50m because the pain and numbness get too intense, forcing them to stop and rest. Resting can mean only sitting down to feel relieved but in some cases, it is required to lay forward, or simply standing will provide the needed rest to continue walking.
Types of Spinal Stenosis
Spinal Stenosis is any narrowing of the bonny opening within the spinal canal, according to the place where the narrowing and nerve compression occurs, we can find three main categories:
Central Spinal Stenosis
It is called Central Spinal Stenosis, the narrowing of the central canal of the vertebrae. Central Spinal Stenosis can be most commonly found in the Lumbar or Cervical region of the spine, being these two, the parts of the spine with the most motion, this causes pain and dysfunction in any part of the body below the affected area of the spine.
Some of the causes of Central Spinal Stenosis are age-related causes such as osteoarthritis and degenerated vertebrae, abnormal movement of the vertebrae, wear or tear of the spinal vertebrae can cause the narrowing of the spinal canal, herniated discs may protrude, and push against the spinal cord, a traumatic injury or the thickening of the posterior ligaments.
Spinal nerves branch from the spinal cord to organs, muscles, and sensory structures of the body through bonny hollow archways called Foramen. When this passageway narrows, causes the compression of the nerves that run from the spinal cord into the body, affecting sensory and motor functions of the arms, legs, and torso. This condition is more common as we age, arthritis and the normal effects of daily life can cause the vertebrae to wear, narrowing the foramen, and herniated disks are very frequent causes of Foraminal Stenosis, especially in elderly people. But we can also find cases of Foraminal Stenosis at a young age due to injuries that could change the spine, causing the narrowing of the foramen.
Just like Foraminal Stenosis, Lateral Stenosis occurs in the sides of the spinal canal. Within the foramen, there is a very specific part called the Lateral Recess. The Lateral Recess Borders define the limits of this area. Lateral Stenosis is caused by the narrowing of the Lateral Recess or the Lateral Recess Borders when abnormal changes in the bones or ligaments are produced, causing these structures to partially occupy these pathways pinching the nerves just before it reaches the intervertebral foramen (Lateral recess stenosis) or when the spinal nerve has already exited the intervertebral foramen (Far lateral stenosis), producing pain and other symptoms.
Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis
The Symptoms of all types of Stenosis are basically the same, not only the nerves are compressed, but also the blood supply is reduced temporarily, causing symptoms such as pain that can radiate from the spine to arms or legs and can go from dull pain to a burning sensation. Neurological deficits can also be observed, such as weakness, numbness, or even tingling in the extremities. In some cases, neurological deficits can include problems with sphincter control. Symptoms will slowly develop during certain activities such as walking or biking, and pain will present in episodes. Relief can be experienced when resting or in a forward bending position, although pain can also be the last symptom following weakness and numbness.
When treating Spinal Stenosis, non-surgical treatments can in most cases help patients with this condition. Physical Therapy is the main treatment used by specialists in cases of Spinal Stenosis, this is due to the importance for patients to stay active and prevent the loss of mobility. It is a guided treatment that should start slowly while building up strength and tolerance, avoiding activities that could worsen the symptoms. Although physical therapy is not a cure, it is very beneficial in preventing further debilitation. Another form of non-surgical treatment is over-the-counter pain medication.
Chiropractic procedures such as Non-surgical spinal decompression can help improve mobility and reduce the pressure occurring in any region of the spine: cervical, lumbar, thoracic, and sacral.
Treatment for Spinal Stenosis goes according to the severity of the symptoms, pain control being the priority. In some cases, pain can not be controlled with over-the-counter pain medication, for these cases, spinal injections are another non-surgical and low-risk option. Anesthetics and steroids are carefully injected into the spinal canal using this can help reduce the inflammation and block the nerve pain. Spinal injections must be administered in the clinic or in the X-ray department.
In more severe cases where the pain is too distressing for the patient or when neurological deficits worsen, surgery can be helpful. The main objective of the surgery is decompression of the spinal cord and nerve roots that are inflamed and/or pinched.
Spinal Stenosis symptoms are frequently a complaint, most commonly among elderly people who report pain radiating to legs and arms. Nowadays, we have available advanced methods in chiropractic care that will improve the quality of life and help avoid surgical procedures and their risks.