Stenosis means closing in. Spinal stenosis refers to a condition in which the tissues inside the spinal canal are closed in, or compressed. The spinal cord ends at L2. Below this level, the spinal canal contains only spinal nerves that travel to the pelvis and legs. When stenosis narrows the spinal canal, the spinal nerves are squeezed inside the canal.
The pressure from the condition can cause problems in the way the nerves work. The resulting problems include pain and numbness in the buttocks and legs and weakness in the muscles supplied by the nerves. Because these nerves travel to the bladder and rectum, weakness in the these muscles can cause problems with control of the bladder and bowels.
Types of Spinal Stenosis
There are two types of spinal stenosis that Northstar Spinal Decompression treats which affect the human spine; they are lumbar spinal stenosis and cervical spinal stenosis. The lumbar region is the lower part of the spine and is the most common area where spinal stenosis occurs. Cervical spinal stenosis resides in the neck region of the spine. While different in name and location both types of spinal stenosis affect the body in a similar manner.
The size of your spinal canal is genetically determined, but it can be narrowed by the effects of gravity, degeneration (such as arthritis disc narrowing and spurring) spinal misalignment, disc herniations, etc…. That’s why spinal stenosis is more common as we age. A narrowed canal limits the room for the nerves and spinal cord to pass causing back, leg and arm symptoms. Lower back stenosis is usually the most painful when standing and walking. Sitting and curling up in a ball temporarily enlarge the canal and relieves the pain. Cervical spinal stenosis is often made worse by looking up or lifting something above your head.
What Are The Signs of Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is commonly seen in the last three levels of the lumbar spine ( L3—S1) and the middle cervical spine (C4-C7). Even though a spinal stenosis may be seen on an MRI, Myelogram or even X-ray–its diagnosis as the cause of your pain can only be made from a thorough Spinal Stenosis Examination. Just because you have a narrow canal does not mean it’s causing your back, leg or arm pain! Many canals are quite small, yet produce few symptoms.
The most common symptom of lumbar spinal stenosis is spinal claudication. It’s a name we use to describe leg pain that increases with walking and is relieved by sitting and resting. It often occurs down both legs (although one leg is usually worse) and is often associated with numbness, burning and leg weakness. The symptoms can be anywhere from your buttocks to your feet.
Most patients complain they can walk a few blocks or less, but have to stop due to leg pain. Usually the achiness or burning goes away by bending or bringing the legs up into the chest (while lying down). But it comes back after resuming the walk. The stenosis may become so severe that the leg pain becomes constant and unremitting, making walking nearly impossible. The disability on ones life cannot be overstated both mentally and physically!!!
Cervical Spinal Stenosis can cause weakness, numbness and pain from your neck, to your torso to your legs (basically, anything below the stenosis). Spasticity and cramping below the effected area is more common in cervical stenosis.
What’s The Best Treatment for Spinal Stenosis?
Northstar Spinal Decompression utilizes Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression as well as methods designed specifically for the treatment of spinal stenosis from physical therapy, chiropractic and rehabilitation. If your spinal stenosis fits our treatment guidelines, our outcomes are exceptional. Patients often double and triple their walking and standing abilities within two months!! Their use of medication is often cut in half.