Spinal Stenosis: Nerve Compression in the Spine

By avn
12:00 pm Posted June 4, 2016
In Spinal Stenosis

Spinal Stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal and the nerve root canal along with the enlargement of the facet joints. It is most commonly caused due to the natural ageing process, but can also occur in younger adults due to a injury or a previous surgery or even a defect from birth. When the spinal canal narrows, it becomes increasingly difficult for your nerves to branch out and move freely. This will result in them becoming swollen and inflamed thereby causing pain, numbness or weakness in the legs, back, neck or arms.

Understanding the anatomy of the spine will help us understand spinal stenosis better.

The spine is made up 24 bones called the vertebrae. The vertebrae are separated by discs, which act as a shock absorber and prevent the vertebrae from rubbing against each other. The middle of the vertebrae constitutes the spinal canal that contains the spinal cord, spinal nerves, ligaments, fat and blood vessels. The Spinal nerves exit the spinal canal through the nerve root canal to branch out further into our body. Both the spinal and the nerve root canals are surrounded by bones and ligaments.

Normal
Stenosis

Spinal stenosis can occur on any area of the spine – cervical, thoracic or lumbar. Lumbar spinal stenosis is however the most common type of stenosis that occurs.

Lumbar stenosis may cause pain accompanies by tingling or numbness that starts in the lower back and radiates down the buttocks and further into the thighs and legs. This radiating pain is called the sciatica. Stenosis also causes, claudication which is a cramping pain and weakness in legs, typically in calves, that occurs with walking or standing. People suffering from claudication tend to find immediate pain relief when they stop walking and sit or rest their legs. Patients also find relief when they walk bent forward with the help of a cane or a walker.

Cervical Stenosis may cause pain as well as tingling or numbness that radiates along the neck and into the shoulders, arms and hands. Pressure on the spinal cord, as it runs through the cervical part of the spine can cause cervical spondylotic myelopathy which is nothing but weakness and spasticity in the arms. Spasticity refers to losing control over muscles and having difficulty walking or tripping or dropping objects due to lack of control over balance and co-ordination.

At times, the conditions are extremely severe and will result in you losing control over your bladder or bowel function. This is called the clauda equine syndrome and is considered a medical emergency. It is imperative you seek medical help in such cases.

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