Spinal stenosis refers to a condition where the spinal canal abnormally narrows, compressing the spinal cavity, and resulting in a variety of symptoms including but not limited to pain, numbness and paralysis. Spinal stenosis can affect various regions of the spine and the specific body part that is affected depends on which region of the spine is being compressed. Next to a herniated disc, spinal stenosis is the most common condition affecting middle-aged people all over the world.
When characterizing stenosis, doctors typically look at the regions where the narrowing is being observed. The two most common types are lumbar spinal stenosis and cervical spinal stenosis. In the former, the lower power of the spine is affected while in the latter, the neck portion experiences the spinal cavity narrowing. This difference in position naturally leads to varying symptoms and complications depending on which nerves are being compressed.
In lumbar stenosis, the lower extremities are often the most affected by numbness and pain. Like herniated disc in the lower back, the sciatica nerve which runs through the length of the legs can be compressed at the root resulting in extreme pain and even paralysis. Conversely, in cervical stenosis, the neck portion which plays host to the nerves that connect to the arms are affected. In this case of spinal stenosis, symptoms include – but are not limited to – numbness and a tingling sensation in the arm, loss of strength, and paralysis.
It should be noted that cervical spinal stenosis is the more serious of the two types owing to the severity of the symptoms associated with each condition. There is a fair number of cases where cervical spinal stenosis led to major body weakness while these symptoms are virtually not existent in most lumbar cervical stenosis. As such, doctors recommend that patients take the symptoms seriously and immediately consult a qualified physician whenever stenosis is suspected as an explanation of the felt symptoms.
To this end, the most common symptoms of spinal stenosis include standing discomfort, numbness, weakness, bilateral symptoms, discomfort above the knee, and buttock or thigh numbness. People who require the support of any object in order to relieve discomfort while in a standing position are almost always diagnosed with spinal stenosis shortly after. Other symptoms include fever, pain during the night, and a marked change in one’s gait while walking or running in order to compensate for the condition.
While the condition can be managed with medication and therapy, most cases of spinal stenosis eventually end up needing surgery. De-compressive surgeries require removal of the bone near where the compression is most severe. This frees up the spinal cavity alleviating pressure. The surgery boasts a 96% success rate although it is important to have the condition diagnosed as early as possible to increase the chances of a great result.
Spinal stenosis should never be taken lightly as its symptoms can drastically impact one’s quality of life. Take time to educate yourself about the condition and how to spot it so at the first sign of trouble, you can immediately approach your doctor for a more convulsive diagnosis.