Spinal stenosis is a condition where due to wear and tear (arthritis, spondylosis) of the spine there is a narrowing in the canal in the middle of the spine where the spinal cord and nerves travel.
It’s a condition that effects mainly older people. Rarely it can effect younger patients who are born with a narrow spinal canal.
The condition can effect you neck or most commonly the low back (lumbar spine). It is characterized by low back pain and stiffness which at times can cause you to have a stooped posture.
The main problem is pain or a cramping feeling in the legs, which is brought on by walking. As you walk the pain in the legs builds up to the point that you can no longer walk on. Resting and bending forward can relieve the pain and then allow you to walk on until again the pain builds up and stops you. As the condition progresses your walking distance to pain gets less and less, you can also develop numbness and weakness in the legs.
Circulation problems can also cause this pattern of symptoms as can arthritis of you hips and knees. Your doctor can help distinguish the cause.
When the condition affects your neck the effects are different and people complain of slowly becoming increasingly clumsy with their hands. Fine tasks such as writing doing up buttons on your shirt, knitting become harder and harder. Rarely if the condition progresses you can feel unsteady on your legs.
If you develope difficulty in passing water or going to the toilet in association with back pain, this can mean you have cauda equina syndrome and need urgent medical attention.
You doctor can help decide the cause of your pain through examining you. You will need to have an MRI scan of your spine to determine the cause of the pain and the degree of narrowing in you spinal canal.
In the early stages of the condition it s important to stay active, Simple anti-inflammatory drugs can help reduce stiffness. Painkillers can help keep you walking. Physiotherapy , osteopathy and chiropractic treatment can help with posture and loosening the stiffness in the lumbar spine.
As the condition progresses and your walking distance deteriorates then further treatment can include steroid injections into the lumbar spine as a temporary measure.
Surgery to the lumbar spine can be a very effective treatment in relieving the pressure on the trapped nerves in the back. It will allow you to walk further without pain in your legs.
In the rare cases that effect you neck it can help reduce the clumsiness in your hands and certainly halt its progression.
pinal stenosis does not signal the end of an active lifestyle, but lifestyle adjustments must be made in order to adapt to coping with the condition.
It is very important to continue to move the back so an exercise programme that incorporates movements that flex the spine is beneficial.