Understanding Spinal Stenosis

Spine disorders can have a very detrimental effect on people unfortunate to be afflicted with them. What is worse is how common they are, especially among people over the age of 50. A very common spinal disorder is known as spinal stenosis. It is the condition where the spinal canal narrows in at least one vertebrae, putting pressure on the nerves concentrated in the spinal canal. This “pinching” can cause pain, numbness or worse to those that suffer from spinal stenosis.

The human spine can be divided in three parts, known as the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine. Cervical vertebrae are located in the neck, and if stenosis occurs here, one may feel pain and numbness in the arms, along with possible pain in the neck as well. In the thoracic region, one may feel pain in the organs. The lumbar region is the most common area where spinal disorders occur because it is under the most stress to keep your body upright, as well as perform everyday tasks. Complications in this region can cause numbness in the legs and affect your ability to maintain your balance.

There are two types of spinal stenosis – primary or acquired. Primary is due to a genetic defect developed as a fetus. Achondroplasia, for example, is a bone disorder that affects bone growth and is the cause of the most common type of dwarfism. Acquired is developed after birth due to other factors, such as age. Most cases of spinal stenosis are acquired, and are most commonly due to age. People over the age of 50 experience natural wear and tear of their bodies, along with other conditions such as osteoarthritis, which contribute to spinal stenosis.

There are several different ways to treat this, depending on the severity of the disorder. Basic treatment options can involve medication, physical therapy or some combination of them. Over the counter pain killers are usually used, such as acetaminophen, although doctors may prescribe stronger drugs such as Vicoden to battle the pain. Physical therapy is helpful because it uses techniques to help increase the spine’s stability and strength.

Severe cases of spinal stenosis may require a decompression surgery, which creates more room for the spinal cord and “decompresses” the nerves. Common procedures done include a foraminotomy and/or a laminotomy. These procedures are relatively very easy and successful, and do not require open surgery in most cases. They also only require a few hours of recovery before you can be released by the hospital.