Spinal Stenosis is a common ailment in adults aged 50 and older in which the spinal cord or spinal nerve is compressed due to narrowing of the spinal canal. While there is no cure, there are many non-surgical treatments and exercises that can reduce the symptoms and pain associated with spinal stenosis.
What is Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal. The spine is made up of vertebrae and discs that absorb the shock caused by everyday movements. The spinal canal protects the spinal cord, which contains the central nervous system that is connected to the brain.
When the spinal canal begins to narrow, the spaces between the vertebrae begin to get smaller. This causes tightness that can pinch the spinal cord and the nerves around it. This pinching leads to pain, tingling and/or numbness in the legs, arms, and/or torso.
The Causes of Spinal Stenosis
The most common cause of spinal stenosis is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is most commonly caused by lack of motion or misalignment of the vertebrae in the spine. This condition causes osteophytes, also known as bone spurs, which narrow the spinal canal and compress the spinal cord and/or nerves. Other causes of include:
- Thickening of the ligaments that support the vertebrate
- Herniated disc
- Tumors or cysts
- Poor Posture
- Previous injury or surgery to the spine
People who are over the age of 50 and people who sit for the majority of their time are at a higher risk of developing spinal stenosis. Some people are born with a narrow spinal cord, which could lead to spinal stenosis later on.
The Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis
Narrowing of the spinal canal can happen within the lumbar vertebrae of the lower back and in the cervical spine of the neck. When the spinal canal narrows in the lumbar vertebra, individuals will often have numbness, tingling, cramping, and/or pain in the legs and feet. They may also experience pain with walking, especially up and down stairs, which is relieved by sitting or leaning forward. In extreme cases, individuals may have loss of sexual function and abnormal bladder and bowel function.
Narrowing of the spinal canal in the cervical spine is not that common, but it can be a very dangerous condition. When the spinal canal narrows in the cervical spine it causes direct compression of the spinal cord. This can lead to radiating pain, weakness, and/or numbness in the arms and hands, serious body weakness, and in extreme cases partial or complete body paralysis.
The Treatment of Spinal Stenosis
There is no cure for spinal stenosis but there are many non-surgical treatments and exercises that reduce symptoms and improve range of motion. Treatments can include spinal adjustments, decompression therapy, and traction methods. The best treatment plan will be determined by a chiropractor after a full assessment of the individual.
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