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What is Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is a condition that involves the narrowing of the spaces in the spine, which leads to pressure being put on the nerves which run through the spine. The condition typically occurs in the neck and lower back.
There are two main types of spinal stenosis. One is cervical stenosis, which involves a narrowing of the spinal area in the neck region, and the other is lumbar stenosis, the most common form, which involves a narrowing of the spinal area in the lower back. It is possible to have both forms of spinal stenosis at the same time.
What causes spinal stenosis?
Among the potential causes of spinal stenosis are; herniated discs; bone overgrowth, which can involve bone spurs which develop from the damage caused by osteoarthritis; thickened ligaments, which can protrude into the spinal canal; spinal injuries, such as traumas which cause vertebrae fractures and dislocations and occasionally tumours around the spinal cord or nerves.
Spinal stenosis risk factors include old age and other conditions such as scoliosis.
Symptoms of spinal stenosis
In many cases, people with spinal stenosis do not experience symptoms. When they arise, they usually get worse over time. The type of symptoms most likely to be experienced can depend on the type of spinal stenosis. Cervical stenosis symptoms can include; weakness in the limbs; numbness in the limbs; difficulty keeping balance when talking; and neck pain.
Lumbar stenosis symptoms can include: Pain in the buttock or legs; weakness in the leg or foot or numbness in the leg or foot. These symptoms particularly occur after periods of time spent standing or walking.
Treatment options for spinal stenosis
In diagnosing spinal stenosis, a doctor will typically begin with a physical examination, and also review your medical history. They are likely to ask you which symptoms you have been experiencing. Imaging tests - such as Xray, MRI scan - can also be used.
The treatment chosen will depend on the type or types of spinal stenosis, the severity of the condition, and the symptoms that have been experienced.
Physical therapy can be a very important non-surgical treatment option for those with spinal stenosis. Exercises guided by a physical therapist can help to increase strength, improve endurance, promote both stability and flexibility in the spine, and improve the balance.
Medication for spinal stenosis
Medications which may be prescribed by your doctor to treat spinal stenosis may include; pain relievers, anti-seizure drugs, anti-depressants and opioids. Corticosteroid injections into the space around the impingement site can help to relieve pain and bring down inflammation. It should be noted that corticosteroid injections do not work for everybody, and will not fix the spinal stenosis itself.
Surgery for spinal stenosis
The decompression procedure, which uses surgical instruments to remove a section of ligament and free up space in the spinal canal, is another option. Surgical procedures for spinal stenosis, which is typically only recommended when the procedures outlined above have proven ineffective, include minimally invasive surgery, a laminectomy, a laminotomy, and a laminoplasty.
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