SPINAL STENOSIS

SPINAL STENOSIS

DIAGNOSED WITH SPINAL STENOSIS? KNOW THE STEP BY STEP PROCESS OF WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE NEXT.

Spinal Stenosis – Spine is a very delicate and complex part of the human body and so are the problems associated with it.

By connecting the brain to all the parts of the body with the help of the nerves running through it, the spinal cord plays an integral part in the nervous system.

However, with the passage of time and oneself growing old, not one, but there are many hindrances that may block the path of an effective nervous system. 

One such condition that needs to be addressed is spinal stenosis.

AN INTRODUCTION TO SPINAL STENOSIS

Spinal stenosis is a condition wherein the inner spaces within the spine that are responsible for compressing the nerves they carry, narrow.  These spinal nerves carry signals from the brain to all the other parts of the body. Naturally, this condition has a huge impact on the functioning of the body.

Spinal canal stenosis is also known as pseudoclaudication. The condition is believed to be more prominent in the old people. Besides, it mostly happens in the neck and the lower back.

The diagnosis for the same happens through X-ray, MRI as well as CT scan or myelogram.

TYPES OF SPINAL STENOSIS

There are two types of spinal stenosis:

  • Lumbar spinal stenosis: Lumbar can be closely associated with the word ‘lower. This helps in understanding the meaning of it.  Lumbar spinal stenosis is a condition that involves narrowing of the spinal canal compressing the nerves travelling through the lower back to the legs.
  • Cervical spinal stenosis: Cervical is a reference to the top-most region of the spine right below the skull. Cervical spinal stenosis is a condition wherein  the spinal canal is situated in the neck. Cervical spine  represents seven distinct vertebrae from the top. 

WHAT CAUSES SPINAL STENOSIS?

Given that it is most common among the older generation, it seems like age is the biggest factor behind the condition. 

  1. Overgrowth of bone: Medically known as osteoarthritis is a condition that involves “wear and tear” condition of the cartilage in the spine. This results in the occurrence of bone spurs that spread to the spinal canal, thus causing narrowing of the space.
  2. Thickened ligaments: Arthritis can cause damage to the ligaments – cords that connect the bones in the spine. They become stiff and thicken over a period of time thus bulging into the spinal canal and narrowing the space.
  3. Spinal injuries: Slip disc is one of the most famous spinal injuries known worldwide. Accidents are the reason behind most of these injuries as well as fractures. The inflammation thus caused can narrow the canal.
  4. Herniated or bulging disk: A vertebral disk is a cushion padding between each vertebrae that acts as a shock absorber. With age, they either dry out or flatten. In case of any injuries on the outer parts of the disk, results in the escape of the gel-like center thus causing the disk bulges into the canal and pressing the spinal nerves. 
  5. Tumors and cysts: abnormal growths in the spine, between the vertebrae can narrow the spinal canal.
  6. Congenital spinal stenosis: Being born with a small spinal canal can also be a reason for many other people. 

SYMPTOMS FOR SPINAL STENOSIS – A DEEP INSIGHT!

The spinal stenosis’ symptoms vary depending upon its type. These symptoms may become a lifelong complication in certain cases.

  • Symptoms for Lumbar spinal stenosis: 
  1. Pain and weakness in the lower parts of the body – pelvis, legs, calves etc.
  2. Numbness in the lower region of the body.
  3. Cramps in the lower body while walking or standing for a long time.
  4. Sciatica – A type of pain that originates in the buttocks and continues down the legs reaching the foot.
  5. In rare and severe cases, one may lose bowel and bladder control.
  • Symptoms for Cervical spinal stenosis: 
  1. Pain in the neck.
  2. Numbness and weakness primarily in the upper body – arms, hands. Can also spread to points beneath the affected region.
  3. Problem in maintaining balance.
  4. Malfunctioning of the upper body causing trouble in daily activities like writing etc.
  5. In rare and severe cases, one may lose bowel and bladder control.
  6. Sciatica – A type of pain that originates in the buttocks and continues down the legs reaching the foot.
  7. Foot drop – Weakness in the lower part of the body, particularly the legs. This causes slappin of the foot on the ground. 
  8. A hard time standing or walking. When you’re upright, it tends to compress the vertebrae, causing pain.
  9. Cauda equina syndrome – A  section at the bottom of the spinal cord if compressed may result in numbness in the pelvic area. It is a medical emergency.

READ ABOUT SPINAL SHOCK>>

HOW TO TREAT SPINAL STENOSIS – A GUIDE.

The treatment for spinal stenosis can be divided into three pain parts:

Home remedies: The treatment for any disease or disorder starts at home. There are number of things that can be done in addition to the treatment provided by e medical professional

    1. Exercise daily : Exercise does not mean to exert pressure on the spin. Consult  a doctor and include soft exercises in the daily routine. 
    2. Lose weight: Staying healthy and having an appropriate weight according to the age and height, can make things a lot easier. 
    3. Apply heat and cold: Heat helps in loosening the muscles while cold helps in healing inflation. Using either of the two can help in the treatment.
    4. Practicing a good posture : Bad posture is an underlying reason behind so many spinal problems. By maintaining a good posture, the treatment becomes more effective.  

Non-surgical medications: Anything besides surgery is part of this treatment.

  1. Anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling and pain. In case of mild pain, medications like aspirin, naproxen or acetaminophen can be used without prescription. In severe cases, medical advice is necessary. 
  2. Epidural injections that help in reduction of the swelling.
  3. Steroids such as corticosteroids can help in healing inflammation.
  4. Antidepressants can help in treating chronic pain.
  5. Muscle relaxants can be necessary for controlling muscle spasms.
  6. Anesthetics: These can help in blocking the pain in the nerves for a time.
  7. Physical therapy: This can help in gaining spinal strength and improve balance. Physical therapy happens under the guidance of a therapist.

Surgery: Surgery becomes a must in cases where the above stated treatment does not offer any improvement and things become unbearable. In certain cases, people tend to lose their bowel and bladder control besides having problems with sexual functioning. These are the most famous surgeries:

  1. Laminectomy to remove the affected part of the vertebrae.
  2. Laminotomy to carve a hole to relieve the pressure in the affected region. 
  3. Decompression procedure: This is specifically applicable to lumbar spinal stenosis. It involves removal of a section of the thickened ligament in order to create some space in the spinal canal.
  4. Laminoplasty: The use of metal plates and screws takes place to create a bridge across the section from which the lamina is removed. 
  5. Foraminotomy: Removal of bone or tissue from the area to create more space for the nerve root exit.
  6. Spinal fusion surgery involves permanent joining of two vertebrae together that are held together using screws and rods and other equipment. 

CONCLUSION

While these may be the only way out of the problem, there are a certain complication associated with the treatments. 

Spinal stenosis is a complex problem. Not treating it can be worse than bearing the side effects of the treatments. Numbness, weakness, paralysis, failure in healing, additional surgeries, failure related to the screws, wires and rods used in the surgery – are few of the many complications that may arrive your way post treatment.

The wise decision is to believe in the process, stay motivated and keep fighting all the odds.

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