Spinal stenosis is quite common among people aged 65 and older. In fact, somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 Americans have symptoms, indicating they may have spinal stenosis.
At Dr. Louis Keppler and Associates, our expert providers regularly treat patients with spinal stenosis. Some people never even know they have spinal stenosis because they don’t have any symptoms. Others experience pain, numbness, and tingling because their spinal canal is so narrow, the nerves passing through it don’t have enough space and are irritated.
What is spinal stenosis?
Your spine is made up of vertebrae, donut-shaped discs between the vertebrae, and your spinal cord, which runs through your spinal column — the donut holes. Your spinal cord is a large bundle of nerves and a major component of your central nervous system that connects all the parts of your body to your brain.
When you have spinal stenosis, your spinal column becomes narrower, and sometimes the nerves in your spinal cord are irritated or compressed. It usually happens in the upper part of your spine, cervical stenosis, or in the lower part, lumbar stenosis.
Symptoms for cervical and lumbar stenosis are similar, but felt in different parts of your body. For example, if you have cervical stenosis, you may feel numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness in your arms, hands, legs or feet—anywhere below the point of nerve compression. If you have lumbar stenosis, you’re more likely to have those sensations in your legs or feet.
Here are four common causes of spinal stenosis.
1. Arthritic spurs
In osteoarthritis, the type that is sometimes called “wear-and-tear arthritis,” your cartilage breaks down, allowing your bones to rub against each other. When that happens in your spine, your vertebrae rub against each other.
The friction of bone against bone can cause bone overgrowth, or bone spurs. Such a spur on your spine can cause your spinal canal to narrow.
2. Bulging discs
Each of the discs between your vertebrae performs important functions, like absorbing shock and providing cushion for your vertebrae. As you age, those discs become drier and more prone to cracking. The result is often a disc that bulges to one side or the other.
When your disc bulges into your spinal canal, it can compress your spinal cord, causing the symptoms associated with spinal stenosis.
3. Thickened ligaments
Ligaments are the connective tissues that are responsible for holding the bones of your spine together. When you have arthritis, they can become stiff and thicker than they should be. The thickened ligaments can press into your spinal canal.
4. Spinal injuries or medical conditions
If you’ve had an injury to your spine, you can develop spinal stenosis. Some medical conditions, like having a tumor or a condition called Paget’s Disease of Bone, can also cause spinal stenosis.
Untreated, worsening spinal stenosis can lead to issues with balance, or even paralysis. If you’re having symptoms, or you’ve been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, schedule an appointment at Dr. Keppler and Associates. Our experienced practitioners can help you understand your options and guide you through a carefully designed treatment program.