The support and stability of the upper body is made possible by the spine which is composed of a series of bones (known as vertebrae) and nerves within the spinal canal. Damage on the spine and the spinal canal results in spinal stenosis, a condition characterised by the narrowing of the spinal canal resulting in excessive pressure buildup on the surrounding nerves and spinal cord.

There are two (2) types of Spinal stenosis, so depending on the area where it occurs will ultimately help diagnose the specific type you’r suffering from. These include;

Lumbar spinal stenosis
This is the most common type of spinal stenosis that occurs due to narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back.

Some common symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis include;
•Muscle weakness and numbness in the legs.
•Tingling sensation in the legs.
•Muscle cramping and pain in the legs and in the lower back.
•Difficulty in maintaining balance.

Cervical spine stenosis
This occurs when the spinal canal narrowing develops in the neck area.

Symptoms of cervical spine stenosis
• Numbness and tingling sensations in the arms.
• Muscle cramping and weakness in the arms.
• Poor motor coordination resulting in a lack of balance and difficulty in performing simple motor skills.
• Extensive pain in the neck region.
• Bladder dysfunction that results in urine incontinence and reduced urgency to urinate.

Causes of spinal stenosis

Advanced age
Age is one of the risk factors associated with spinal stenosis. As age advances, the rate of spinal soft tissue and bone degeneration is increased over time resulting in spinal degeneration. This occurs especially in individuals over the age of 50 years.

Underlying diseases
Diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis as associated with inflammation and increased wear and tear on the bones of the spine. This exerts pressure on the spinal canal resulting in spinal stenosis.

Paget’s disease, a bone condition characterized with excessive growth of the bone tissue within the spine resulting in spinal narrowing and excessive pressure buildup which eventually leads to the development of spinal stenosis.

Other diseases such as spondylolisthesis, a condition characterized by excessive motion between spinal bones also lead to spinal stenosis.

Bone tumors
This is an abnormal growth of bone tissues which can occur either within the spinal cord or spinal canal resulting in reduced space and pressure buildup which contributes to the occurrence of spinal stenosis.

Spine injuries
Spinal injuries that occur as a result of trauma from accidents or surgery resulting in inflammation and dislocation of spinal bones leading spinal stenosis due to increased pressure in the spinal canal.

Birth defects
Scoliosis, a birth defect that results in a twisted spine that creates a spine curvature contributes to the development of spinal stenosis.
Other birth defects such as dwarfism and individuals borne with a narrow spinal cord are also linked to the development of spinal stenosis.

Thickening of spinal ligaments
Ligaments help in holding the vertebrae in position and when they start to thicken over time, they are forced to extend into the spinal canal reducing space and creating pressure which leads to the development of spinal stenosis.

Treatment of spinal stenosis
There are various treatment options available for spinal stenosis. These include;

Medications
This employs the use of prescribed oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that help in reducing pain, inflammation, and discomfort associated with spinal stenosis
The administration of corticosteroids in the form of injections is also done to reduce the extent of the inflammation and associated pain.

Physiotherapy for spinal stenosis
This involves a series of exercises with the help of a certified physio for back pain that can help strengthening muscles, improve motor coordination and balance and resolve lumbar spine

Surgery
This is done on paints with excessive pain and those with neurological loss due to nerve damage which aims in reducing excessive pressure within the spinal canal. Different surgical procedures are available and the choice of the appropriate one is dependent on the severity of the condition.

Other alternative treatments such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic care can also be used in reducing associated symptoms.

About the Author

Tim Adams is a leading musculoskeletal physiotherapist bondi junction who specialises in both headache and spine treatment. With over 20 years’ experience, Tim is referred to by some of Australia’s leading neurosurgeons to help with post-operative rehabilitation from his boutique spine physiotherapy clinic.