Home > Causes of Back Pain > Spinal Stenosis Explained

Spinal Stenosis Explained

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 14 Feb 2015 | comments*Discuss
 
Spinal Stenosis; Arthritis;

Spinal stenosis is described as the narrowing of the spaces involving the spinal structures. These spaces can be in between the individual vertebrae or between the vertebrae and the spinal cord known as the spinal canal which runs the full length of the spine.

Narrowing of these spaces can cause pressure on the nerves and can be minimal or very severe. Normally occurring in the lower back, the most frequently affected nerve is the sciatic nerve.

Causes Of Spinal Stenosis.

Spinal stenosis may be an inherited condition called achondroplasia in which the person is born with abnormal bone growth and development.

Scoliosis or other curvatures may result in narrowing of the spinal canal due to the physiology of the affected vertebrae.In general, spinal stenosis is the result of the natural ageing process. Structural changes and inflammation of the spinal column can cause abnormal and extra growth of bony appendages called bone spurs. These can grow in to the spinal column and cause a great deal of pressure of the spinal cord. They can also grow outwards causing pressure on nerves and discs that are not directly adjacent to the spinal cord.

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can both add to the risk of narrowing of the spinal spaces, as they cause the tissues to become thicker and tougher, and these can eventually harden (calcify) and ‘block-up’ the spinal canal.Misalignment of the spine, known as spondylolisthesis, (when the vertebrae move), can cause the spinal canal to become displaced and restricted. This can cause a lot of nerve compression.

Signs And Symptoms

The narrowing process is normally quite slow so symptoms get progressively worse over time. Common symptoms are pain, tingling, numbness of the extremities and feeling stiff with aches.

In sever cases there may be such significant damage to the nerves that bowel or bladder function may be disturbed. This is a very serious problem and will definitely need medical intervention.

Treatments

The first treatment given would be a pain relieving medication, usually with an anti-inflammatory drug. Long-term use of analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs will need to be carefully monitored by your doctor as the side-effects can be quite serious, including gastric bleeding. Sometimes the doctor will suggest the use of steroid injections to help reduce inflammation, but these cannot be used long-term due to their side-effects.

Occasionally the use of anaesthetic injections will be beneficial as they target the nerves and block pain messages.Changes in position or sleeping position may temporarily relieve symptoms as certain postures and stances help to open up the vertebral spaces; a chiropractor or physiotherapist will help you find these positions.

The use of a back brace may help stabilise the spine and help find a position that opens up the spaces.Exercise and stretching are vital in the treatment of spinal stenosis; by building-up muscle and strength, particularly of the abdomen, the spine will become much more stable. Exercise is vital prior to considering surgery as a good level of fitness will speed up the recovery process and will help metabolise and process the anaesthetic drugs used.

Surgery may be necessary, in order to remove the protrusion that has caused the narrowing and resulting nerve pressures. Commonly removed structures are bone spurs, disc protrusions and the lamina of the vertebra. In doing this the space is made larger and nerves become decompressed. Prior to surgery, extensive physical examinations and images must be performed in order to find out the exact cause and location of the stenosis. Choosing surgery should be considered when all other treatment options have been thoroughly tried.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Hi can you please help I have been suffering for 2 years with low back pain unable to bear weight and all my back muscles are very very stiff. I had an MRI of the spine done which revealed I have disc degeneration in three places neck mid back and lower back. I have done physiotherapy for six months no improvement also been to several chiropractors and osteopaths. Only thing that helps is when I have a massage but that is short lived. Looking forward to your reply. Belal
Belz - 27-Jul-11 @ 11:54 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • rAY
    Re: Dehydrated Discs
    hI THERE, I have Dyhydration L3/l4 and ll4/l5 and disprotrusion and sequestrated discu after MRI i am aged 52. I had hip pain all night for 3…
    3 April 2019
  • UKez
    Re: A Spinal Tap Caused My Back Pain
    Hi . I also had a spinal Tap to check the stages of a bleeiding in my brain. This has caused me serious back pain almost…
    3 July 2018
  • BackPainExpert
    Re: Dehydrated Discs
    Alex - Your Question:I am a 27 yr old male who up until last year was working 84-108 hrs/week and always had back problems but all the doctors I…
    23 May 2018
  • Alex
    Re: Dehydrated Discs
    I am a 27 yr old male who up until last year was working 84-108 hrs/week and always had back problems but all the doctors i had seen told me its…
    16 May 2018
  • Salsybar
    Re: Stem Cell Repair and Back Problems
    Hi I have annulus bulges at c4 -c5- c6 I have disc dessication,bulges , minmally prominent of the spinal cord t6-t7 t7-t8…
    9 May 2018
  • malky
    Re: Back Pain: Information for Employers
    I've enjoyed reading all your stuff and hope the stem cell injections come on to the market soon as I've been off work 5…
    8 May 2018
  • Jeeva
    Re: Spinal Dislocation
    My friend have pain in lumbar region. It cause breathing effects during sleeping.in MRI scan it shows that there is a dislocation in lumbar region
    17 April 2018
  • Agsmith78
    Re: A Spinal Tap Caused My Back Pain
    I had a spinal tap 3 years ago and still suffering from back, hip and left leg pain along with occasional weakness. Nothing…
    5 April 2018
  • Rubi
    Re: Stem Cell Repair and Back Problems
    What are the 2 basic functions of the spine?
    24 March 2018
  • Kumar
    Re: Dehydrated Discs
    What is the surgical procedure of disc dehydration
    9 March 2018