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Spinal Stenosis

What is Spinal Stenosis?

The spine, which is composed of vertebrae, serves as a vital support system for the upper body, offering stability and enabling movements like turning and twisting. Additionally, the spine houses spinal nerves that transmit signals from the brain to the rest of the body. These nerves are safeguarded by the surrounding bones and tissues, preventing any damage or impairment. Any disturbances in these nerves can impact functions such as walking, balance, sensation, and may even lead to back pain.

Spinal stenosis is a condition that occurs when the spinal column gradually narrows, resulting in spinal cord compression and potentially causing back pain. While minimal narrowing may not lead to any symptoms, excessive narrowing can compress the nerves and lead to various issues.

It’s important to note that stenosis can develop in any part of the spine, and the extent of its impact can vary. Spinal stenosis is also known as pseudo-claudication, central spinal stenosis, or foraminal spinal stenosis.

Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis

As nerves become more compressed, symptoms usually progress over time. You may experience the following:

  • Weakness in your legs or arms
  • Lower back pain while standing or walking
  • Numbness in your legs, buttocks, or back
  • Balance problems

These symptoms will typically decrease with rest, but will return with activity.

Causes of Spinal Stenosis

The most common cause of spinal stenosis is aging, which can lead to various degenerative processes in the body. These processes may result in the thickening of spinal tissues and the enlargement of bones, consequently putting pressure on the nerves and potentially causing back pain. Additionally, conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, spine defects, a naturally narrow spinal cord, spinal curvature or scoliosis, Paget's disease of the bone, bone tumors, and achondroplasia (a type of dwarfism) can also contribute to the development of spinal stenosis.

Diagnosing Spinal Stenosis

If you are experiencing symptoms such as back pain that are suggestive of spinal stenosis, a thorough medical evaluation will be conducted by your doctor. This may include gathering your medical history, conducting a physical examination, and closely observing your movements. Additionally, your doctor may order diagnostic tests such as X-ray, MRI scan, or CT scan to visualize your spine, electromyelogram to assess the condition of spinal nerves, or a bone scan to detect any abnormalities or growths in your spine.

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