Spinal Stenosis Pain
In Greek language, Stenosis means “Narrowing”. Spinal Stenosis is a condition in which your spine (or part of it) becomes narrow thus squeezing your nerve roots and spinal cord. This process of squeezing is also known as “compression” among the doctors.
Spinal Stenosis causes pain in lower back, neck, legs and arms. Which of your body parts get affected depend on which part of your spinal cord and nerves are getting squeezed. The condition can occur in any part of spine, though lumbar spine and cervical spine are more likely to be affected by it. Narrowing channels in your spine are a natural part of aging process and therefore Spinal Stenosis is very common occurrence. There is no guarantee though that younger people will not suffer from Spinal Stenosis. At times, it is not painful for the patient, because channels don’t press the spinal cord or nerve roots.
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If there are compressed nerves in the lower back, the condition is called pseudoclaudication, and it results in cramps or pain in the legs when you are standing or walking for long periods of time. The symptoms go away if you bend or sit down. If, however, you are still standing upright, the condition will persist.
If you are suffering from pain in your shoulders and neck, it means your nerves in cervical spine are compressed. The pain being experienced may either be chronic or occasional, and can even affect your arm. Other symptoms may include muscle weakness, loss of sensation and headaches.
You may have a tendency to fall if there is pressure on cervical spinal cord. If your bowel or bladder nerves are affected, you may experience urinary or fecal incontinence.
There are two types of Spinal Stenosis:
- Primary Spinal Stenosis which is a rare occurrence and is present at the time of birth.
- Acquired Spinal Stenosis, which is more common and occurs as part of aging process.
Osteoarthritis is one of the major causes of spinal degeneration. In this condition, the cartilage which serves as cushion between the bones deteriorates thus causing the bones to rub painfully against each other. In an attempt to repair, our body produces bone spurs, which then go on to cause the spinal canal to become narrow.
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Other factors due to which the spinal canal becomes narrower:
- After the age of 30, your discs begin to deteriorate. They become more brittle due to loss of water content. Ultimately the outer surface of discs gives way to tiny cracks. The jelly like substance within the discs seeps out due to herniation. These discs press the nearby nerves resulting in pain in your leg, back or both.
- If there are abnormal growths in your spinal cord, they may compress your nerve roots and spinal cord resulting in severe back pain affecting legs, hips, muscle weakness and numbness. You may also lose some bowel or bladder control.
- As we age, the ligaments in our backs undergo degeneration and become stiffer with time. As a result spinal canal becomes narrower and the nerve roots become compressed.
Article published January 27th, 2010
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