Demystifying Your Spinal Stenosis Diagnosis 鈥� Learn About Your Condition and Its Treatment Options by Patrick Foote at iSnare Free Articles
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, but aren’t quite sure what that means, staying educated about your condition may relieve some stress and actually help you begin the recovery process. For starters, the word stenosis means the constriction of a duct or passage. So, spinal stenosis refers to constriction of the spinal canal or nerve roots, which may be causing chronic pain or other unpleasant symptoms
Causes and Locations of Spinal Stenosis
Generally speaking, spinal stenosis occurs in either the upper seven vertebrae of the spine, referred to as cervical spinal stenosis, or the lower five vertebrae, referred to as lumbar spinal stenosis
Some of the more common spine conditions or abnormalities that can aggravate or cause spinal stenosis include:
• Bone spurs – These small growths of excess bone develop in response to a reduced joint stability and can cause spinal stenosis either by the actual formation of the spurs themselves, or by the destabilized joint’s inability to keep space between vertebrae.
• Bulging discs – If the wall of a disc has become weakened, it may intrude upon the spinal canal, causing spinal stenosis.
• Hardened or enlarged ligaments – Through the aging process, ligaments lose their elasticity and eventually can turn into bone. If this condition occurs, the spinal canal can be intruded upon by this inflexible material, leading to spinal stenosis.
• Herniated discs – If the weakened outer wall of a disc tears, the inner gel-like material can spill into the spinal canal, causing spinal stenosis from the ruptured disc material or causing vertebrae to shift and constrict the spinal canal
As stated earlier, some people are simply born with narrow spinal canals that, through time, can develop into painful spinal stenosis. Other conditions that can cause spinal stenosis include spinal tumors, spinal diseases, or the various after-effects of a traumatic injury
Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis
The symptoms of spinal stenosis can be difficult to diagnose due to the fact that they can resemble symptoms from less serious conditions like a muscle or ligament strain. However, if the pain is consistent and symptoms become chronic, there is a chance they are the result of spinal stenosis. The most debilitating spinal stenosis symptoms occur as a result of the constriction of a nerve root or the spinal cord itself. Nerve roots in the spinal canal branch out from the spinal cord to carry sensory messages throughout the body. So, chronic pain associated with spinal stenosis is not always localized to the specific location of the constriction, but may extend to the extremities as well. Depending on the section of the spine affected, constriction of the nerve roots can cause symptoms to extend to either the upper or lower extremities. These symptoms can include:
• Bladder or bowel dysfunction, which indicates a medical emergency and should be addressed right away
• Difficulty holding balance or walking
• Pain during periods of inactivity like at night or persistent pain throughout the day
• Pain that radiates from the back to the tip of the extremity
• Tingling, numbness, or weakness in the extremities
If these symptoms become chronic and interfere with your ability to perform day-to-day activities, it’s time to consult your doctor. To gain an accurate view of your spinal problems, your doctor may order medical images like an x-ray or an MRI to find the specific location of your spinal stenosis.
Once your condition has been properly diagnosed by a physician and it’s determined you are not facing a medical emergency requiring immediate surgery, you can begin conservative, non-invasive therapies to relieve your spinal stenosis symptoms. Physical therapy, pain medicines, and steroid injections can help the muscles and joints in the spine to loosen and may take pressure off constricted nerves. Also, lifestyle changes like losing weight and improving your posture can shift your spine’s construction and relieve some of the painful symptoms. However, if these more conservative treatments don’t work, your doctor may suggest an elective surgical procedure to provide relief for your spinal stenosis symptoms
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