What is Spinal Stenosis, and How is it Treated?
Your spine is made up of small bones, called vertebrae, which are stacked on top of one another. Muscles, ligaments, nerves, and intervertebral disks are additional parts of the spinal column. Spinal stenosis occurs when the space around the spinal cord and spinal nerves narrows. The narrowing puts pressure on the spinal cord and the nerve roots, and can cause pain, numbness, or weakness in the legs.
Spinal stenosis develops over time and is caused mainly by osteoarthritis or the aging process. In younger adults, stenosis is generally caused by trauma, herniated discs, or other pathological disorders.
Stenosis can occur anywhere along your spine, but it primarily affects three areas:
1. Cervical spinal stenosis
Cervical spinal stenosis occurs in your upper spine region around the neck. Symptoms include:
- Mild or intense neck pain
- Neck or upper back area weakness
- Clumsiness in your hand
- Tingling, burning numbness in the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands. Hand tingling is the most common symptom.
- Bowel or bladder problems in severe cases
2. Lumbar canal stenosis
Lumbar canal stenosis affects the lower back, and symptoms include:
- Problems with walking, standing, or bending
- Mild or intense lower back pain
- Weakness in your legs or buttocks
- Coordination issues
- Numbness, burning or tingling in the lower back, buttocks, and legs
- Leg cramps after walking or standing for long periods
- Bowel or bladder issues in severe cases
3. Thoracic Spinal Stenosis
Thoracic Spinal Stenosis is rare. It is a degenerative condition caused by the narrowing of the middle back spinal canal. Symptoms include:
- Change of lower body sensation
- Burning or pain in your thighs or calves
- Weakness, tingling, or numbness
- Pain with any movement
- Isolated pain in one area
Treatment depends on the type/location of the stenosis and its severity. If your symptoms are mild, your healthcare provider might recommend home self-care remedies. If self-remedies are ineffective, your doctor will re-evaluate your treatment plan. Self-care remedies include:
- Apply heat: Heat improves blood flow, thus relieving aching joints and relaxing muscles.
- Apply cold: Ice relieves inflammation, tenderness, and swelling.
- Exercise: Your healthcare provider will advise you on the best activities to strengthen muscles, improve balance and flexibility, and relieve pain.
Other treatments include oral medication, physical therapy, and bracing. A back brace supports your back and improves your existing core strength, reducing stress on your spine.
When your quality of life is severely affected by stenosis, your doctor may recommend surgery. There are various surgical options, including:
- Laminectomy, also known as decompression surgery, involves removing a piece of the vertebra or lamina, decompressing the spine and nerves, relieving pain.
The laminotomy involves removing a small part of the lamina, or the region with the most pain.
- Laminoplasty is performed on the neck (cervical spine) and involves the removal of a portion of the lamina. The section which is removed is replaced with a metal hinge on the lamina.
Some people find alternative treatments such as chiropractic treatment, Pilates, Yoga, or acupuncture helpful. If you have any of these types of stenosis, contact Elite Medical Supply to find the right back brace for your condition.
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