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All about spinal stenosis causes of spinal stenosis symptoms of spinal stenosis diagnosis of spinal stenosis treatment for spinal stenosis

What is spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is narrowing of the spinal canal caused by excessive growth of bone and/or thickening of tissue, which reduces the size of the openings in the spinal bones (vertebrae). This narrowing can squeeze and irritate the spinal nerve roots where they leave the spinal cord or the spinal cord itself. The disease and its effects are similar to stenosis in the

lower spine. A narrower opening in the cervical vertebrae can also put pressure on arteries entering the spinal column, cutting off the blood supply to the remainder of the spinal cord. Most often, spinal stenosis results from degenerative changes in the spine caused by aging. But tumors, injuries and other diseases can also lead to narrowing in the spinal canal.

Spinal stenosis is a progressive narrowing of the opening in the spinal canal. The spinal canal is a small space that holds the nerve roots and spinal cord. If for any reason this space becomes smaller, it can squeeze the nerves and the spinal cord causing pain and other symptoms. Stenosis can occur anywhere along the spinal cord but is more common in the lumbar region. The spine is a long series of bones called vertebrae. Between each pair of vertebra is a fibrous intervertebral disk. Collectively, the vertebrae and disks are called the backbone. Each vertebra has a hole through it. These holes line up to form the spinal canal. A large bundle of nerves called the spinal cord runs through the spinal canal. This bundle of 31 nerves carries messages between the brain and the various parts of the body. At each vertebra, some smaller nerves branch out from these nerve roots to serve the muscles and tissue in the immediate area. When the spinal canal narrows, nerve roots in the spinal cord are squeezed. Pressure on the nerve roots causes chronic pain and loss of control over some functions because communication with the brain is interrupted. The lower back and legs are most affected by spinal stenosis. The nerve roots that supply the legs are near the bottom of the spinal cord. The pain gets worse after standing for a long time and after some forms of exercise. The posture required by these physical activities increases the stress on the nerve roots. Spinal stenosis usually affects people over 50 years of age. Women have the condition more frequently than men do.

This narrowing is usually caused by degenerative changes (deterioration) in the spine (vertebrae) that occur as part of the natural aging process. As we age, the disks (cushions between the bones of the spine) on our spinal column lose fluid and height. The loss of height results in "disk bulging. The small joints in the back part of the spine develop osteophytes ("spurs"). The ligaments surrounding the spinal column tend to thicken. In combination, these changes lead to a decrease in the space available to the nerve roots as they travel through and exit the spinal canal. Once the narrowing of the spinal canal gets to a critical point, the blood supply to the nerve roots that supply sensation and motor power to the legs is cut off. Spinal stenosis tends to run a very gradual course. Symptoms may not worsen for several years and certainly there is nothing life threatening about this condition. It is only when the level of symptoms becomes intolerable in terms of limiting a person's quality of life that surgery should be considered.

More information on spinal stenosis

What is spinal stenosis? - Spinal stenosis is a progressive narrowing of the opening in the spinal canal caused by excessive growth of bone and thickening of tissue.
What causes spinal stenosis? - Spinal stenosis can be congenital, acquired, or a combination. Spinal stenosis is often caused by degeneration of the discs.
What're the symptoms of spinal stenosis? - The classic symptom of spinal stenosis is leg pain when walking and standing that is relieved by sitting.
How is spinal stenosis diagnosed? - A diagnosis of spinal stenosis usually is based on your history of symptoms, a physical examination, and imaging tests.
What's the treatment for spinal stenosis? - Mild cases of spinal stenosis may be treated with rest, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants.
Bone, joint, & muscle disorders

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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005