Spinal stenosis occurs when the space around the spinal cord or spinal nerves narrows. The spinal nerves and spinal cord typically have sufficient room between them and their containing structures, but several conditions can cause this to change.
When that space is significantly diminished, pressure is put on them that can affect their function and lead to a range of adverse symptoms.This spinal cord and nerve restriction can occur in any region of the spine.The spinal nerves are usually first to be constricted, and the symptoms are usually less severe than when narrowing disturbs the spinal cord. However, both can eventually occur as the condition worsens.
Spinal stenosis is normally the result of degenerative changes that happen with age, such as disc degeneration. In fact, almost everyone has at least some sign of spinal stenosis later in life. It is not until the nerves or spinal cord are compressed that stenosis begins to trigger symptoms.
As we get older, the discs in our back begin to dry out, break down, and shrink. This stresses the facet joints and can trigger bone growths along with ligament thickening and cartilage wear. This form of degeneration can easily confine the space around the spine and nerves, leading to spinal stenosis.
Spinal Stenosis Symptoms
There is a range of possible symptoms of spinal stenosis. There will not always be accompanying symptoms with spinal stenosis, as they only arise when the nerves or spinal cord become irritated and compressed. The type and degree of symptoms are largely dependent on the location and severity of the spinal stenosis that has developed.
Some spinal stenosis symptoms may even be mistaken for unrelated conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome. The symptoms can range from only a numbness and tingling sensation, to severe pain and loss of function in severe cases. Since bone degradation is often responsible for spinal stenosis, it can be common for the symptoms to become worse with time if the condition is left untreated.
Types of Spinal Stenosis
The three most common forms of spinal stenosis are lumbar stenosis, cervical stenosis, and foraminal stenosis.
Lumbar Stenosis – Lumbar stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back, known as the lumbar area. This narrowing can compress and irritate the nerves that extend out from the spinal cord. It can also compress the spinal cord itself. Symptoms include pain, numbness, and stiffness in certain areas. Lumbar stenosis is often treated with the laminectomy procedure, with or without a spinal stabilization procedure like fusion.
Click here to learn more about lumbar stenosis.
Cervical Stenosis – Cervical stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal in the neck, known as the cervical area. It is largely considered the most dangerous form of spinal stenosis, due to the greater chance of severe cases resulting in crippling damage to the spinal cord. As with all forms of spinal stenosis, cervical spinal stenosis is usually age related, and most commonly occurs in patients over the age of 50.
Symptoms of cervical stenosis usually develop over a period of time and become more severe as the condition worsens. Numbness, stiffness, and pain are all symptoms of cervical spinal stenosis, along with possible loss of strength and motor-skills. Like with lumbar stenosis, cervical stenosis can be treated with a laminectomy.
Click here to learn more about cervical stenosis.
Foraminal Stenosis – Foraminal stenosis is a narrowing of the foramen, the small canal through which the nerves exit the spine. When the foraminal canal is narrowed, these exiting nerves can become constricted and can lead to symptoms of pain, tingling, and muscle weakness.
Like the other two common types of spinal stenosis, foraminal stenosis is usually a product of age-related degeneration. The symptoms can occur in multiple regions of the body, as they follow the path of the compressed nerve. A procedure known as a foraminotomy, which widens the foramen, is used as a treatment for foraminal stenosis.
Click here to learn more about foraminal stenosis.
Contact a Los Angeles Spinal Stenosis Expert
If you are suffering from symptoms of a form of spinal stenosis, contact the world-renowned experts at the Spinal Stenosis Center of Excellence today. Our surgeons utilize the most advanced techniques and procedures for treating multiple forms of spinal stenosis in the most minimally-invasive, patient-centered approach possible. Spinal stenosis is a condition that should be treated before symptoms become worse, call us today at 888.538.0565 or use our contact form.