Spinal Stenosis Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

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Spinal stenosis, or narrowing of spinal space is not a disease. Spinal stenosis attributes to leg, hand and neck stiffness and numbness, at one point it needs surgery.

Cause of Spinal Stenosis

Causes of spinal stenosis are categorized into ‘primary’ or ‘acquired’. Primary usually happened at birth. Some of them are problem with unknown cause (idiopathic) and problem caused by physical deformities such as born dwarf (achondroplasia).

For the ‘acquired’ category, it usually occurs because of backbone declination (degenerative) that concomitant with aging. Apart from that, it can happen because of following factors:

  • Shifted disc;
  • Change of ligament position;
  • Tumor;
  • Infection such as tuberculosis;
  • Broken spine/backbone;
  • Loose vertebra;
  • Effect of past spine surgery.

Illustration showing shifted disc at lumbar section of spinal column which has caused spinal stenosis.
Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis

  • Spine narrowing usually does not create problem, but if the narrowing is pressing the spine or the spine nerve, it will forms symptom. Usually it begins with a feeling of little pain before turning to more severe.
  • Pain or stiffness at leg. Usually you will feel sense of stiffness at leg started when you stand too long or when walking. The sense of pain then disappears when you bend or sit down but recurs when you stand up again.
  • Pain on the back and hip. Shifted disc can press the nerve at lower part of spine. It brings to feeling of pain which starts at hip or buttocks then goes down to the leg section. Pain become more severe when one sits but only affect on one side. You will feel numb, weak and biting/tingling sense at the leg or toe.
  • Pain at neck and shoulder. Usually occurs when the neck nerve is being pressured. It may occur sometimes or may be chronic. Sometimes it will move down to the hands or arm. One may experience headache and muscle weakness.
  • Lost of bladder control (cauda equina syndrome). In serious case, bladder or bowel nerve is affected causing part of or entire of the bladder section to be affected. It happens in three to four percent of patients.

– Non-Surgical Treatments

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Usually involved drug can be bought over the counter such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
  • Analgesics drugs.
  • Supplementary food recruitment.
  • Resting or limiting activities can improve symptom.
  • Physical therapy.
  • Aiding application such as corset / brace.
  • Epidural injection.

When Should Surgery Be Considered?

Your doctor will likely suggest nonsurgical treatment first unless you have:

  • Symptoms that get in the way of walking
  • Problems with bowel or bladder function
  • Problems with your nervous system.

Your doctor will take many factors into account in deciding if surgery is right for you. These include:

  • The success of nonsurgical treatments
  • The extent of the pain
  • Your preferences.

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