Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal. The canal serves as the passage for all nerve roots and the spinal cord, connecting nerves all throughout the body. Spinal stenosis is a common cause of low back and leg pain.
Causes spinal stenosis:
- Aging and the normal wear-and-tear lead to narrowing of the spinal canal. Degenerative changes of the spine are seen in up to 95 percent of people by the age of 50. Spinal stenosis most often occurs in adults over 60 years old. Pressure on the nerve roots is equally common in men and women. A small number of people are born with back problems that develop into lumbar spinal stenosis. This is known as congenital spinal stenosis. It occurs most often in men. People usually first notice symptoms between the ages of 30 and 50.
- Arthritis is the most common cause of spinal stenosis. Arthritis refers to degeneration of any joint in the body.
- Spinal stenosis may be acquired or inherited. Some cases are caused by age-related problems while some people are just born with smaller spinal canal that could possibly become narrower as they age.
- Obesity, bad posture and other skeletal diseases can also cause spinal stenosis.
Types of spinal stenosis:
- Cervical stenosis – narrowing of the spinal canal around the neck region.
- Lumbar stenosis – narrowing of the spinal canal around the lower back area.
Both of these conditions affect the body very similarly, even if they are in two separate areas of the body.
Spinal stenosis symptoms are progressive and worsens over time. It is also possible for these symptoms to spread into another area of the body. Patients may experience the following symptoms:
- Neck pain
- Lower back pain
- Shoulder pain
- Burning pain in buttocks, things and legs
- Weakness in the legs
- Cramping or numbness in buttocks or legs.
- Difficulty walking, bending over or even standing
After discussing your symptoms and medical history, Burak Ozgur, MD will examine your back. This will include looking at your back and applying pressure on different areas of the back to see if it hurts. You may have to be requested to bend forward, backward, and side-to-side to check for limitations or pain.
Imaging Tests to help confirm your diagnosis include:
- X-rays – Although they only visualize bones, X-rays can help determine if you have spinal stenosis. X-rays will show aging changes, like loss of disk height or bone spurs. X-rays taken while you lean forward and backward can show “instability” in your joints. X-rays can also show too much mobility, called spondylolisthesis.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – This study can create better images of soft tissues, such as muscles, disks, nerves, and the spinal cord.
- Computed tomography (CT) – CT scans can create cross-section images of your spine.
- Myelogram – In this procedure, dye is injected into the spine to make the nerves show up more clearly. It can help determine whether the nerves are being compressed.
After thorough examination of your medical history, you may be requested to go through a series of physical tests for reflex loss and movement limitations, which are all indications of possible nerve damage, and questions regarding your pain.
The goal of treatment for spinal stenosis is to prevent the spinal curve from getting worse and to correct or stabilize a severe spinal curve. Fortunately, few people who have spinal curves require treatment. The type of treatment depends on the cause of scoliosis. Scoliosis that is caused by another condition (nonstructural scoliosis) usually improves when the condition, such as muscle spasms or a difference in leg length, is treated. Scoliosis that is caused by a disease or by an unknown factor (structural scoliosis) is more likely than nonstructural scoliosis to need treatment.
This includes either routine exams by a doctor to check for any curve progression or the use of a brace to stop a spinal curve from getting worse. Children typically have these checkups about every 4 to 6 months. Adults are usually checked about once each year.
Surgery can be used to insert implants to hold the spine in place or fuse the spine together so that the curve cannot get worse. Treatment is based on the age of the person, the size of the curve, and the risk of progression. The risk of progression is based on age at diagnosis, the size of the curve (as measured using X-rays of the spine), and skeletal age (which can be determined by the Risser sign).
Burak Ozgur, MD can address spinal stenosis with minimally invasive, outpatient surgical procedures that are designed to help you find relief from pain. Learn more about our minimally invasive procedures or request an appointment for consultation by calling (949) 383-4190 or toll free 888-64-SPINE or Contact Us ➲.