This condition happens when the blood vessels narrow in an abnormal fashion and begin to compress the organs of the body. This condition is usually associated with the spinal cord and Spinal Stenosis is the result of narrowing of the spinal column that puts pressure on the spinal cord. This happens over a period of time and you may not notice any symptoms in the early stages. However, in the later stages, it can lead to nerve damage in the spinal cord and create various complications. It can begin at any part of the spine and later on affect various functions of the body and even cause balance issues. The chances of getting this condition increase with age and the body lose its strength due to other diseases related to the bones and muscles. The initial treatment begins with medication to control the pain and other symptoms. However, in the later stages, surgery may be needed to treat the condition.
Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis:
– The symptoms may not be visible in every person and some people do not experience any symptoms in the early stages.
– In most cases, this condition affects the neck and the lower back region and causes a lot of pain and discomfort especially when walking and standing. However, these symptoms reduce when you are in a sitting position and this can give some relief on a temporary basis.
– Many people suffering from spinal stenosis experience shooting pain that usually begins at the legs and moves to the lower back region. This is known as sciatica and it usually affects people older than 50 years.
– It is also common to notice problems while standing and walking as the vertebrae get compressed in this position. It can cause severe pain and make it difficult for people to lead a normal life.
– In extreme cases, some people even lose control over their bowel movements as the nerves around this region get affected and become weak. It can also lead to loss of bladder in a few cases and you should never neglect such symptoms.
– Few people also feel a sensation of tingling in the hands and legs and some people also complain about numbness in this region. The hands and legs tend to be generally weak due to this condition.
– If you notice back pain or weakness in the legs, especially in the standing position, you can try and sit down for some time to reduce the symptoms. If the pain reduces in this position, it is a clear sign of spinal stenosis.
Causes of Spinal Stenosis:
– In many cases, the overgrowth of bones due to osteoarthritis or Paget’s disease can lead to this condition. In this situation, the regular damage done to the spinal bones will trigger the bone spurs and this can overgrow and get into the spinal canal. When this happens, space becomes crowded and leads to this condition.
– The spinal region acts as a shock absorber and this supports and balances the body. The vertebrae have soft cushions that accomplish this task and they can become dry due to old age. In this situation, it develops cracks and the soft cushion will move out and press the spinal cord. This causes spinal stenosis in many people and it can be painful to deal with this condition.
– When you suffer any trauma due to an accident, the vertebrae can get dislocated or fractured and this will affect the spinal canal. The swelling of the tissues will lead to additional pressure on the nerves of the spinal cord and cause this condition.
– The ligaments that keep the bones of the spine in proper order can become stiff over a period of time due to old age and this can, later on, grow into the spinal canal leading to this condition.
– In rare cases, there can be some abnormal growth in the spinal cord due to tumours and this can reduce the space in this region. It is difficult to detect such problems and you need to get a proper CT scan along with the MRI scan to analyze this condition.
– Even though this affects people over the age of 50 in normal cases, even young people can get affected when there are genetic factors involved as this can affect the growth of muscles in the spine.
Diagnosis of Spinal Stenosis:
– Physical examination: The first phase of diagnosis begins with a physical examination of the affected area. The doctor will go through your symptoms and try to analyze the problem. After this step yields some clarity into the situation, further imaging tests are done on the affected area to confirm the condition.
– Imaging Tests: In this method, an X-ray of the spinal column is taken and this can give some idea about the damage done to the spinal canal. Your doctor will particularly watch out for the narrowing of the canal region and this will help them to analyze the condition in the proper manner. After this step is completed, you may be sent for an MRI scan that will give the best view of the damage to your ligaments. It can also show the damage done to the disk and also clearly display any tumours in this region. In this way, it becomes easy to notice the specific region where the pressure is felt in the spinal column and doctors can begin the treatment based on the findings of these tests. In some cases, when taking an MRI scan is not possible due to various reasons, a CT scan of the region is preferred. This can give the best view of the nerves and the spinal cord and show the damage done to them in a proper way.
Treatment for Spinal Stenosis:
– Self-Care Tips: Many people suffering from this condition do not require any treatment and they can easily handle the situation by making suitable changes to their lifestyle. This includes modifying the ways in which everyday activities are performed so that there is less strain on the spinal column. This is the best way to deal with the problem when the symptoms are very minor and there is no need for a complicated surgery or even medication in this situation.
– Medication: When it comes to taking medication, the over-the-counter pain relievers will be able to reduce the symptoms temporarily and this is used in the early stages of spinal stenosis. However, this should not be used without the consultation of your doctor as it can do more harm in the long run. This may have minor side effects that will usually go away after a few hours. Apart from that, some people are also prescribed anti-depressants that will help them to deal with the pain in an effective way. Remember that some drugs can become habit-forming and they should be avoided in the long run.
– Physical Therapy: This method is commonly adopted to build strength in the muscles. As this condition usually affects old people, they tend to become lethargic and do not move around as much as they can due to pain and other symptoms. However, using physical therapy can build strength in the muscles and this will drastically improve the flexibility of the spine region. It will help them to deal with balance issues in the future.
– Steroid Injections: This can give relief from pain and other symptoms for many weeks at a time. The inflammation will be reduced due to the effect of these injections and this will give temporary relief for patients. However, it should not be used regularly as it can cause many side effects in the long run.
– Surgery: The basic aim of surgery is to decompress the region so that it will be able to function in the normal way. It reduces the pressure on the nerves and creates more space for them. The surgery can also be minimally invasive and this helps to reduce further damage to nearby tissues that are still healthy. You should consider surgery only as a last option as this can become complicated in elderly people.
Complications of Spinal Stenosis:
– It is not very common to notice severe complications out of this condition. However, when treatment is not provided at the right stage and in the proper manner, it can cause some complications in a few individuals. You should not worry too much as the symptoms can even reduce in many individuals after taking medication for a few weeks.
– The most extreme complication that is likely to arise out of this condition is paralysis and it can cause this condition when treatment is not provided for spinal stenosis. It can affect the nerves badly and lead to this condition in the long run. However, it does not happen overnight and it rarely happens in the initial stages. Only in the extreme stages when treatment is not given, you can notice such complications.
– Some of the regular complications that can arise out of spinal stenosis include numbness of the hands and legs. Remember that the spinal cord connects various nerves and when this gets affected, it can affect the overall performance of other organs and lead to this condition.
– Many people also complain about the general weakness that is the result of long-term spine damage. When this condition is neglected for many years, it can lead to severe pain and many people are not able to stand or walk for a long duration due to this problem.
– As the spine loses support due to this condition, it can create a lot of balance issues and this can result in many complications. Especially elderly people face such problems and they are likely to fall or trip over due to this problem.
– In extreme cases, this can affect the surrounding tissues and lead to a lack of control over bowel movements. This condition is known as Incontinence and people lose control over their bladder and this can become very embarrassing for them. It usually happens with very old people and only in cases when the problem becomes very severe in nature.
Myth #1: Steroid injections can cure spinal stenosis
While it is true that steroid injections can provide temporary relief from pain and other symptoms, it is not the best way to treat the condition. It can never provide long-term relief and it will work effectively only for a maximum duration of a few weeks. After this, you need to take them again to get further relief from the symptoms.
Myth #2: Only surgery can treat spinal stenosis
Most people suffering from this condition do not require surgery and they can easily handle the situation with medication and other therapies. Only in extreme cases, surgery is used to treat the condition and even then, there is no guarantee that it will provide complete relief in all the cases.
Myth #3: Spinal stenosis is a progressive disease
This is completely false and you can easily carry on with your everyday activities without worrying about this condition. It does not progress in most cases and if you are able to tolerate the pain, there is no need to worry about this condition going worse in the future. You can modify your activities to suit your health condition and go ahead with them without any hassles.
The best way to treat this condition is to use a combination of different methods that provide relief from pain and other symptoms. To begin with, you need to work on your endurance and build enough strength to handle the situation. When you are physically active, the spine will also develop flexibility and you will not have problems with pain and other symptoms. Apart from that, using the medication can give you temporary relief from pain and you can choose surgery if nothing else works for your problem. There is absolutely no need to panic when you are diagnosed with this condition as you can still lead a comfortable life when you have this problem. It is not progressive and in fact, the symptoms reduce after a few years on their own and this will give you relief from the condition.