Stenosis means narrowing. In spinal stenosis, the canal through which the spinal cord and nerve roots run becomes narrow. This results in abnormal pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, causing myriad symptoms including pain, leg cramping, numbness, tingling and weakness.
Symptoms of cervical spinal stenosis
Often, the pain starts and becomes worse while walking and is relieved when one stops walking or sits down. When the spinal cord is compressed, symptoms may include imbalance or difficulty with fine hand movements. In severe cases, people may experience abnormalities with bowel or bladder function. These symptoms from spinal cord compression are referred to as myelopathy and can be irreversible.
Spinal stenosis can occur with and without symptoms. The canal may become narrowed from herniated (bulging) disks, a forward slipping of one vertebra on the one below it (spondylolisthesis), bone spurs, enlarging of the facet joints, or the buckling or enlarging of the spinal canal ligament (ligamentum flavum hypertrophy). Any one or a combination of these conditions can cause spinal stenosis.
Anti-inflammatory medication and epidural steroid injections near the damaged nerves can help reduce pain by decreasing the swelling. Physical therapy can also help lessen pain by increasing core strength to stabilize the spine so there is less micromotion through the spine and less irritation of the nerve.
When these treatments fail, patients can benefit from minimally invasive surgery to relieve the pressure on the nerves. During this outpatient procedure, the surgeon uses a tiny 3- to 15-millimeter incision and a small retractor placed gently in between the muscle fibers to access the damaged area. Special instruments with magnification enable the surgeon to create more space for the nerves, which relieves the pressure and pain. When finished with the procedure, the incision does not even need a stitch to close it.
If you or a loved one suffers from spinal pain, you owe it to yourself to call Southwest Scoliosis Institute at 972-985-2797 to make an appointment.