Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spaces within your spine) is a condition that occurs when the already narrow spinal canal which contains your nerve roots and spinal cord becomes restricted. This can cause crowding and squeezing of the nerves and spinal canal which may cause lower back and leg pain. Typically patients will complain of a deep seated ache and intense pain in the legs or calves as well as lower back after walking. Pain may get worse walking upslope. This is usually reproducible and relieved by sitting down or leaning forward.
Causes of Spinal Stenosis
The most common cause of spinal narrowing results from progresssive degenerative changes. This may be due to arthritis of the spine combined with thickening of the ligaments in the back or even a bulge of the intervertebral discs. Risk factors for developing spinal stenosis include:
1. Congenital stenosis (people born with a narrow spinal canal)
2. Female gender
3. Age >50 years
4. Overweight with BMI > 30
5. Previous injuries to the spine
6. Poor posture
Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis
Patients may have symptoms ranging from numbness, weakness, lower limb cramps, pain in both legs and thighs, pain shooting down the legs, abnormal bowel/bladder function/incontinence, decreased sensation in the feet causing difficulty walking/tripping, loss of sexual function and in severe scenarios partial to complete leg paralysis.
Diagnosis of Spinal Stenosis
Your doctor will take a full medical history as well as do a thorough physical examination. Additional tests may be conductive to confirm and assess the spine such as X-rays, CT scans and MRIs
Treatment for Spinal Stenosis
Unfortunately there is no way for spinal stenosis to spontaneously recover. However therapy such as exercise is the most important. Your doctor will assess you to decide if conservative or surgical treatment is more appropriate for you. Most cases can be treated by the following