What is spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is a condition when one or more bony openings (foramina) within the spine begin to narrow and reduce space for the nerves, which can put pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine. The tightened space can cause the spinal cord or nerves to become irritated, compressed or pinched, which can lead to back pain and sciatica. This process can occur within the spinal canal and/or in the intervertebral foramina where spinal nerves exit the spinal canal.

Types of spinal stenosis

The types of spinal stenosis are classified according to where on the spine the condition occurs.

The two main types are:

  • Cervical stenosis - in this condition, the narrowing occurs in the part of the spine in your neck
  • Lumbar stenosis - the most common form of spinal stenosis. In this condition, the narrowing occurs in the part of the spine in your lower back

What are the symptoms?

Spinal stenosis occurs most often in the lower back and neck. While some people may not experience any symptoms, others may experience pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness. Symptoms can worsen over time too.

What are the causes?

This condition usually develops slowly and is most commonly caused by “wear-and-tear” changes or osteoarthritis that naturally occur in the spine with growing old. For this reason, you may not experience any symptoms for a long time even though some changes might be seen on X-rays or other imaging tests.

Treatments for spinal stenosis

The treatments for spinal stenosis depend on the causes of the symptoms, the location of the problems and the severity of the symptoms. For mild symptoms, the healthcare provider may recommend some self-care remedies first. For severe symptoms, the healthcare provider will recommend physical therapy, medication and finally surgery.

Some of the self-help remedies that may alleviate the pain:

  • Applying heat
    Usually the better choice for pain due to osteoarthritis. Heat can increase blood flow, which relaxes muscles and relieves aching joints.
  • Applying cold
    If heat isn’t easing your symptoms, try ice. Typically, ice is applied 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off. It can reduce swelling, tenderness and inflammation.
  • Exercise
    After checking with your healthcare provider, you can try exercising which helps relieve pain, strengthening muscles to support the spine and improve your flexibility and balance.

If the self-help remedies did not ease the mild pain, kindly consult with your doctor for other types of treatments. Learn about how you can improve your condition with our Neurology medical experts at Regency Specialist Hospital.

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