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Spinal stenosis is typically multifactorial, meaning it’s caused due to the processes of multiple other diseases. These health issues can include degenerative disc disease, inflammation, scoliosis, disc herniation, disc protrusion, disc bulging, spondylolisthesis and spondylolysis. Spinal osteoarthritis, thickening spinal ligaments, cysts, traumatic injuries and metastatic processes can also cause stenosis.
There are two main types of spinal stenosis, both of which happen in the foramen (gaps) in your vertebrae. When your spinal cord gets compressed in the hole in the middle of your vertebrae (vertebral foramen), this is known as central canal stenosis. This type of spinal stenosis commonly occurs in the neck (cervical) or lower back (lumbar) regions.
Foraminal (also known as lateral) stenosis occurs when your spinal nerves become compressed in the openings between your vertebrae where they exit the spinal canal. Foraminal stenosis typically occurs in the lumbar spine.
Both types of stenosis can occur in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine. Depending on where they occur, you may have different indications. Common symptoms of stenosis include:
If you have any of the symptoms listed above, schedule an appointment with a spinal specialist. They will be able to properly diagnose you and come up with a treatment plan that can help you find relief.
To diagnose whether or not you have spinal stenosis, your doctor will likely review your medical history and symptoms. They may also conduct a physical exam and run tests to check your reflexes, range of motion, and which movements cause your symptoms to worsen.
Once these tests are complete, your healthcare provider may also need to confirm the diagnosis with additional imaging tests. These could include an MRI (magnetic-resonance imaging), X-ray or CT (computerized tomography) scan.
Spinal stenosis can be treated through both surgical and non-surgical manners. Your doctor may recommend a combination of non-surgical treatment options to help your condition, such as:
If the non-surgical treatment methods don’t relieve the symptoms and pain of stenosis, surgical intervention may be recommended. Some surgical treatment options for spinal stenosis include microdecompression, discectomy and fusion, foraminotomy and laminectomy. Many surgical treatment options can be performed using a minimally invasive approach. The treatments your doctor recommends may depend on the location of the stenosis and what underlying medical conditions are causing it.
If you have spinal stenosis, some activities may exacerbate your condition or symptoms. These include:
If you’re experiencing symptoms that suggest you may have spinal stenosis, the best thing you can do is consult with a spinal specialist. They will be able to give you a proper diagnosis and come up with a treatment plan that helps you find relief and improve your quality of life.
Once you have a treatment plan, sticking to it is critical for the best results. Keep your doctor aware of any changes in your condition or symptoms. Attend all follow-up appointments to keep track of your condition and the treatment plan’s efficacy.