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Treatment Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of spaces in the spine (backbone) that results in pressure on the spinal cord and nerves and can cause pain. This disorder is most common in men and women over 50 years old. Younger people who were born with a narrow spinal canal or who hurt their spines may also get spinal stenosis.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

There may be no symptoms of spinal stenosis, or symptoms may appear slowly and get worse over time. Signs of spinal stenosis include:

  • Pain in the neck or back
  • Numbness, weakness, cramping, or pain in the arms or legs
  • Pain going down the leg
  • Foot problems.

One type of spinal stenosis, cauda equine syndrome, is very serious. This type occurs when there is pressure on nerves in the lower back. Symptoms may include:

  • Loss of control of the bowel or bladder
  • Problems having sex
  • Pain, weakness, or loss of feeling in one or both legs.

If you have any of these symptoms, you should call your doctor right away.

To diagnose spinal stenosis, your doctor will ask about your medical history and conduct a physical exam. Your doctor may also order one or more tests, such as:

  • X rays
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a test that uses radio waves to look at your spine
  • Computerized axial tomography (CAT) - a series of x rays that give your doctor a detailed image of your spine
  • Myelogram - a test in which the doctor injects liquid dye into your spinal column
  • Bone scan - a test in which you are given a shot of radioactive substance that shows where bone is breaking down or being formed.

Causes

Aging

Changes that occur in the spine as people get older are the most common cause of spinal stenosis. As people get older:

  • The bands of tissue that support the spine may get thick and hard.
  • Bones and joints may get bigger.
  • Surfaces of the bones may bulge out (these are called bone spurs).
Arthritis

In some cases arthritis, a degenerative condition, can cause spinal stenosis. Two forms of arthritis may affect the spine: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Inherited Conditions

Some people are born with conditions that cause spinal stenosis. For instance, some people are born with a small spinal canal. Others are born with a curved spine (scoliosis).

Other Causes

Other causes of spinal stenosis are:

  • Tumors of the spine
  • Injuries
  • Paget's disease (a disease that affects the bones)
  • Too much fluoride in the body
  • Calcium deposits on the ligaments that run along the spine.

 

Reference:

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, USA.