In the medical field, stenosis means the abnormal narrowing of a body channel. When combined with the word spinal, it defines a narrowing of the bone channel occupied by the spinal nerves or the spinal cord. This narrowing puts more pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, triggering pain.
Spinal stenosis is a back condition that’s more likely to occur in men and women after age 50, and tends to worsen as the years add up. It can develop at various points along the spine. Some people are born with a congenital form, but most develop spinal stenosis as part of the degenerative cascade. A few do not feel any effects of the narrowing, but as part of the aging process, most people will eventually notice radiating pain, weakness, and/or numbness secondary to the compression of the nerves or spinal cord.
In general, there are three main types of spinal stenosis:
Foraminal stenosis is the most common type of lumbar spinal stenosis, and may also be referred to as lateral spinal stenosis. As the nerve root is about to leave the canal through a side hole in the back of the spine, called the neuro-foramen, a bone spur (osteophyte) that has already developed from a degenerating disc, or an arthritic facet joint, can press on that nerve root.
See Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment for Low Back Pain and Facet Joint Disorders and Back Pain
With this type of stenosis, the emerging nerve root is trapped (for example, the L4 to S1 individual spine nerves that form the sciatic nerve). This type of spinal stenosis can easily be visualized as a pinching of the nerves.
See Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Treatment
Narrowing of the central canal (called central stenosis) in the lumbar (low back) area can compress the thecal sac. This narrowing can cause pressure on the nerve bundle at the end of the spinal cord (cauda equina), or the individual nerves within the thecal sac.
Since this spinal canal narrowing usually occurs over many years, you may not notice it right away. Here are 6 common symptoms of spinal stenosis worth keeping an eye out for:
1. Back pain comes and goes. Your pain may be severe some of the time, and mild or completely gone other times.
2. Sciatica symptoms. You may have radiating numbness, a pins-and-needles feeling, tingling, or weakness from the low back to the buttocks and legs.
3. Different positions and exercises cause pain. Walking, riding a bike, or just standing upright may set off muscle cramps and pain in the legs or back. The pain may flare up with even a brief amount of physical activity.
4. Other positions relieve pain. Sitting, lying down, or shifting yourself forward may ease the pain, because these positions give the nerves some extra room.
5. The pain goes away slowly. It often takes a few minutes of rest for the pain to stop.
6. Slight changes make a big difference. You feel significant relief when you lean forward a little, such as with a shopping cart handle or on bike handlebars.
Treatment for Spinal Stenosis
There is no cure for spinal stenosis, but several treatments can help manage symptoms. Here at Spine Central treatment our treatment approach through specific manipulation of the spine utilizing a special treatment therapy known as Cox-Flexion-Distraction in combination with specific stretching and strengthening exercises. If possible, we want to eliminate or minimize the need for medication and surgery.
Lumbar vs. Cervical Stenosis.
The lower back develops lumbar stenosis, while the neck develops cervical stenosis. While the narrowing may occur at different parts of the spine, the symptoms of nerve compression are often similar. That is why specialists often will perform testing to determine the cause and location of the narrowing.
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis, the spinal nerve roots in the lower back become compressed and this can produce symptoms of sciatica—tingling, weakness or numbness that radiates from the low back and into the buttocks and legs—especially with Cervical Spinal Stenosis spinal stenosis is rarer and more dangerous than lumbar spinal stenosis.
Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal cord in the neck (cervical spine) or the spinal nerve roots in the lower back (lumbar spine) are compressed. Symptoms of lumbar stenosis often include leg pain (sciatica) and leg tingling, weakness, or numbness. Arm pain is a typical symptom of cervical spinal stenosis. For cervical spinal stenosis with myelopathy, difficulty with coordination often occurs.
The Major Types of Spinal Stenosis
While there are differences in how stenosis can affect the anatomy, all forms of stenosis are typically referred to as simply spinal stenosis.