Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the channels that house the spinal nerves in the lumbar spine (lower back) or cervical spine (neck). The narrowing generally occurs due to natural bone and disc degeneration, but some patients are born with a narrower spine. The pain many people associate with a natural part of aging is usually a symptom of spinal stenosis. This condition generates pressure on the spinal nerves by compressing the available space in which they can function, which may also be referred to as a pinched nerve.
Spinal stenosis comes in several types, but the major three are central stenosis, foraminal stenosis, and far lateral stenosis.
Like the name implies, central stenosis is when the spinal canal narrows at the central area in the lower back. This condition mainly affects the end of your spinal cord, putting pressure to the bundle of nerves that are typically found there. Nerves at the thecal sac – which is what helps your spine “float” in your body – may also be affected.
The most common type of spinal stenosis is foraminal stenosis. This condition occurs through a hole at the side of the spine called the neuro-foramen. This hole is typically needed as an access for nerve roots to leave the canal, but bone spurs caused by a degenerating disc may pinch those roots. The pinching traps the nerves in place, causing pain and discomfort.
Far Lateral Stenosis
Far lateral stenosis often occurs in conjunction with foraminal stenosis. This is because past the neuro-foramen, bulging discs, facet joints, ligamentum hypertrophy, and herniated discs can cause narrowing. This stenosis occurs lateral to the neuro-foramen.
Beyond the type of spinal stenosis that a patient may experience, the side of the body where the narrowing happens is also important to identify. Cervical spinal stenosis is located around the neck, causing pain in that area and may mean the spine is compressed. Cervical stenosis may cause weakness so extreme that a person is unable to move. Lumbar spinal stenosis pressed on the nerve roots in the lower back, causing pain or tingling localized to the lower half of the body.
- Muscle cramps
- Pain in the back and legs
- Weakness in the extremities
- Difficulty walking
- Problems with bowel control
- Physical therapy
- Steroid injections
- Laser spine surgery
Finding an expert spine surgeon in New Jersey is important in addressing any conditions caused by spinal stenosis. Contact the Spine Institute to set an appointment where you can learn the best path to help alleviate your pain.