Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis refers to the narrowing of spaces between the inter-vertebral discs resulting in pinching of the nerves between them with consequent pain and other complications. This loss of inter-vertebral space could be due to intrusion by bone spurs, hernias or thickening of supporting ligaments which all tend to reduce the space within the spinal canal, creating space constraints for the spinal column. It is also one of the major reasons for spinal surgery among the elderly. While some lucky ones do not present with any symptoms due to this complication, others may experience, numbness, tingling, pain and muscle weakness. It could also result in problems with balance, gait and strength in a limb.

The narrowing of the inter-vertebral space may be due to wear-and-tear with age and osteoarthritis. In some people, the complications produced are sufficient to warrant surgery for creating a gap between the vertebral bones of the spine and releasing pressure on a nerve.

Spinal stenosis is classified according to its location:

Cervical region –In this case, the affected bones are located in the upper cervical bones of the spine. Thoracic bones are rarely involved.

Lumbar region – The lumbar bones are located in the lower back and stenosis of these bones is more common.
It’s possible that a person can one or both types of stenosis. It’s also possible that more than one set of vertebrae are affected by stenosis. The symptoms of spinal stenosis vary according to the type and location of the nerves affected. Some people only discover evidence of spinal stenosis when undergoing MRI or CT scan for something else and have no symptoms at all. Others may have gradual onset of symptoms which worsen with time.

Cervical Spinal Stenosis – The patient may present with numbness or tingling sensation in an arm, hand, foot or leg. There might be an associated muscular weakness in these parts too. Additionally the person might experience problems with walking and/or balancing which worsens with time. Then of course there is the symptom of neck pain. Stenosis is more dangerous when it occurs in the neck due to the closeness of the spinal cord. In severe cases, there might even be bowel and bladder dysfunction.

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis – This is accompanied by back pain and numbness or tingling in a leg or foot. There might be an associated weakness in these regions too. The patient might also experience cramps or pain upon standing or walking for long periods of time. This symptom will ease when sitting or resting leaning forward, bending over and even by climbing stairs.

Do have regular follow-ups with your doctor as spinal stenosis worsens over time.

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