Spinal Stenosis: Cause & Symptoms

Spinal stenosis is the result of the narrowing of free spaces in the spine. This will cause extra pressure to act onto the spinal cord and the nerves running through it. In majority of the cases, spinal stenosis affects the lumbar spine. This will eventually cause pain along the legs and make walking a difficult task to accomplish.

Causes

There are many different possible causes for spinal stenosis:

  • As we grow older, our soft connective tissues such as the tendons and ligaments will start to harden and thicken. When this happens, spurs will start to develop and some may make their way into the spinal canal. This will result in the damaging of the vertebrae and cause the facet joints to wear and tear. Eventually, this will cause the narrowing of the lower spine.
  • When one of the many vertebrae slips over another, this will cause congestion and narrow the spinal canal.
  • Spinal tumour. Spinal tumours are abnormal growth of soft tissues that will cause inflammation of the spinal canal. White blood cells will rush to the site and cause an overgrowth of new tissues. This will eventually result in the narrowing of the spinal canal.
  • Accidents especially high impact ones may shatter or dislocate the spine, causing small bones to impinge onto the canal.

Symptoms

Patients suffering from early stages of spinal stenosis often have no symptoms. Symptoms will develop slowly over time and may include:

  • Pain in the back
  • Burning pain at the buttocks
  • Numbness in the legs
  • Loss of feeling in the feet
  • Loss of sexual abilities
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Pain and weakness of legs

The pain in the legs are usually due to inefficient circulation of the blood. Leg pain will usually go away with rest but patients with spinal stenosis will get persistent leg pain despite resting. Narrowing of the spine will also cause nerve impingement, resulting in important nerves to be deprived of the abilities, leading to incontinence.

Spinal stenosis have no unique signs nor symptoms and will worsen over time. Although x-ray results look promising, there is still uncertainties. The best method to manage lumbar spinal stenosis is to understand the disease better and to strengthen the back by engaging in strengthening activities daily.