Spinal stenosis describes the progressive narrowing of the central part of spinal canal that protects the spinal cord.
What causes spinal stenosis? Spinal stenosis may be congenital or acquired as a result of arthritis, disc bulges or part of the natural aging process. As the canal narrowing progresses the nerves begin to become compressed. Lumbar spinal stenosis can cause pain that is typically in the buttocks and limbs and is commonly described as numbness and tingling in the limbs that is often better rest. This is termed as neurogenic claudication. However there are other conditions that may mimic this symptom and is important to get a thorough neurologic exam by a physician trained in treating these disorders in order differentiate among other causes.
What are the treatments options? Depending on the severity of the disease there are many treatment options from conservative to advanced procedures depending on the severity and limitations in function. Conservative treatments include proper spinal mechanics, maintaining a healthy weight, exercise, smoking cessation and physical therapy. Certain medications may be helpful; these include anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), analgesics (Tylenol) or neuropathic medications specifically for nerve pain. If these options failed to provide relief, steroid injections may be a reasonable treatment. For others with severe stenosis who have failed other treatments or if there is neurologic weakness surgery may be a more effective approach to decompress the pressures on the spinal cord or nerves.