Spinal stenosis is a medical condition characterized by a narrowing of the spinal canal, which can put pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots. The following are some of the technical terms associated with spinal stenosis:
Spinal canal: The spinal canal is the bony cavity that surrounds the spinal cord and nerve roots.
Narrowing: Spinal stenosis refers to a narrowing of the spinal canal, which can occur as a result of a variety of factors such as aging, spinal injuries, or degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis.
Compression: The narrowing of the spinal canal can cause compression of the spinal cord and/or nerve roots, leading to symptoms such as pain, numbness, and weakness.
Degenerative conditions: Degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis can cause the bones and joints of the spine to degenerate, leading to spinal stenosis.
Spinal cord: The spinal cord is a long, delicate structure that runs through the spinal canal and carries messages between the brain and the rest of the body.
Nerve roots: The nerve roots are the branches of the spinal nerves that exit the spinal cord and innervate the rest of the body.
Foraminal stenosis: Foraminal stenosis refers to a narrowing of the foramina, which are the openings in the spinal column that allow the nerve roots to exit the spinal canal.
Central stenosis: Central stenosis refers to a narrowing of the central canal of the spinal column, which can put pressure on the spinal cord itself.
The above terms are important to understand in order to accurately diagnose and treat spinal stenosis.
Causes of Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
Degenerative conditions: Degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis and spondylosis can cause the bones and joints of the spine to degenerate, leading to spinal stenosis.
Herniated discs: A herniated disc is a condition in which the soft inner material of a spinal disc bulges out, putting pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots.
Thickened ligaments: The ligaments that support the spine can become thickened over time, causing them to narrow the spinal canal and compress the spinal cord and nerve roots.
Tumors: Tumors in the spinal column can cause compression of the spinal cord and nerve roots, leading to spinal stenosis.
Spinal injuries: Trauma or injury to the spinal column, such as a spinal cord injury or spinal fracture, can lead to spinal stenosis.
Congenital abnormalities: Some people may be born with a narrower spinal canal, which can increase their risk of developing spinal stenosis.
Paget’s disease: Paget’s disease is a condition that affects the bones and can cause them to become deformed, leading to spinal stenosis.
The above causes of spinal stenosis can result in the narrowing of the spinal canal, leading to compression of the spinal cord and/or nerve roots and the development of symptoms such as pain, numbness, and weakness.
Signs and Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis can cause a variety of symptoms, including:
- Pain: Pain is a common symptom of spinal stenosis and can be felt in the back, legs, and arms. The pain may be described as aching, burning, or shooting.
- Numbness and tingling: Spinal stenosis can cause numbness and tingling in the limbs, which can affect the hands, feet, legs, or arms.
- Weakness: People with spinal stenosis may experience weakness in the limbs, which can make it difficult to perform certain activities or movements.
- Claudication: Claudication is a term used to describe the feeling of leg pain and muscle weakness that occurs when walking. This is a classic symptom of spinal stenosis.
- Radiculopathy: Radiculopathy is a term used to describe a condition in which the nerve roots are compressed, leading to pain, weakness, and/or numbness in the limbs.
- Myelopathy: Myelopathy is a term used to describe a condition in which the spinal cord is compressed, leading to symptoms such as difficulty walking, loss of bladder and bowel control, and/or weakness in the limbs.
- Cauda equina syndrome: Cauda equina syndrome is a medical emergency that occurs when the cauda equina, a group of nerves at the lower end of the spinal cord, is compressed. Symptoms of cauda equina syndrome include severe back pain, leg weakness, and bladder and bowel dysfunction.
The above symptoms can be diagnosed through a physical examination, imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI, and/or a patient’s medical history and reported symptoms. A proper diagnosis is important in order to develop an effective treatment plan for spinal stenosis.
Treatment for Spinal Stenosis
Physiotherapy can be an effective treatment option for spinal stenosis, helping to relieve symptoms and improve mobility. A typical physiotherapy program for spinal stenosis may include:
Exercise: Gentle exercises, such as stretching and strengthening exercises, can help to improve mobility and reduce pain.
Manual therapy: Techniques such as spinal manipulation and massage may be used to help improve mobility and relieve pain.
Assistive devices: Physiotherapists may recommend assistive devices, such as braces, to help relieve pressure on the affected area and improve mobility.
Pain management: Physiotherapists may use techniques such as heat or cold therapy, electrotherapy, or pain-relieving exercises to help manage pain.
Postural education and advice: Physiotherapists can provide information on how to maintain good posture and prevent future injury.
Core stability exercises: Specific exercises aimed at improving core stability can help to support the spine and reduce pressure on the affected area.
It’s important to note that the specific treatment for spinal stenosis will vary based on the individual and the severity of their condition. A physiotherapist can develop a personalized treatment plan based on a thorough assessment of the individual’s specific needs and symptoms.
If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about spinal stenosis please call us at 03 9836 1126.
Lane, J. M., O’connor, D., & Whittingham, W. (2011). The effectiveness of physiotherapy for lumbar spinal stenosis: a systematic review. Physical Therapy Reviews