On this site, you will learn general information on the spine, the exact definition of spinal stenosis, the many different types of spinal stenosis, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments.
General Information about your Spine
In order to fully understand the information provided on this site for spinal stenosis, it is important to understand the anatomy of the spine. The spine is delicate, yet strong. It is simple, yet complex. The normal anatomy of your spine is generally divided up into three major sections. These sections include:
Each of these sections is made up of individual bones that are called vertebrae. Each individual vertebra is made up of several parts. The body of the vertebra is the primary source for weight bearing. It acts as a resting spot for the fibrous discs that separate each of the vertebrae. The lamina covers the spinal canal, which is the large hole in the center of the vertebra. The spinal canal is where the spinal nerves pass. The spinal canal is the primary area affected.
With each vertebra, there are four facet joints. There are two that face upward and two that face downward. They interlock with the adjacent vertebrae which provide stability for your spine. Facet joints are sometimes part of the cause for spinal stenosis.
Your vertebrae are separated by intervertebral discs. These discs act as cushions between your bones. These discs are made up of two parts, which are the annulus and the nucleus. The annulus is the tough outer layer that surrounds the nucleus or the center. Spinal stenosis can sometimes be the result of a herniated or ruptured disc.
What is Spinal Stenosis?
While there is a basic definition for spinal stenosis, there are different specific definitions for it due to the different locations within the spinal canal that this can occur. The basic definition is the narrowing of the spinal canal and the compression of the spinal cords and nerves. On this site, you will learn in depth the different types and how they affect your health. Each type has its own symptoms and causes; however, there are a lot of similarities in causes and symptoms between them.
Who Gets Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis not only affects women, but it also affects men equally. It is generally seen in older people; however, anyone can develop it. Those who have labor intensive careers are more prone to suffer from spinal stenosis. People under the age of 30 rarely develop it unless they have suffered a traumatic injury to the spinal column.
How is Spinal Stenosis Diagnosed?
In order for you to be diagnosed, a number of tests must be performed. Your doctor may suspect due to your symptoms. Once it is suspected, a complete evaluation of your spine will be conducted. This process usually starts with a medical history and physical examination. The medical history portion of this evaluation is when you will tell your doctor about your symptoms and where these symptoms exist. This will help your doctor determine where the nerve compression exists.
The physical examination will involve imaging studies, such as:
- CT Scan
- Bone Scan
An x-ray is the simplest tool. It can show your doctor the bones of your spine and can help your doctor determine the cause of your pain. An x-ray can show tumors, traumatic injury, inherited abnormalities, and spinal arthritis.
The Myelogram is also an x-ray that involves an injection into the spinal fluid that is located around the spinal cord and nerves. This dye will show up on the x-ray around these nerves unless there is no space. This test is not as commonly performed because of the MRI; however, it can be useful when people are not able to have an MRI.
A CT scan or computed tomography scan is similar to an x-ray; however, it gives a better view of tissues in your body and a better view of the areas of compression within your spinal canal. This is because more structures can show up on a CT scan.
MRI or magnetic resonance imaging is one of the most popular tools being used to diagnose spinal stenosis. In an MRI, magnetic signals produce images of the spine. An MRI can show many more structures than an x-ray, such as: muscles, ligaments, and nerves.
A bone scan is not as commonly used for diagnosing spinal stenosis, but is a possibility. A bone scan involves injecting radioactive material into your vein. This material attracts to areas of high bone activity. This test is used where there is a concern for fractures, infections, tumors, or other causes of spinal stenosis.
What are the Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?
There are different symptoms depending on the area where the spinal canal is narrowed or where the spinal cord and nerves are being compressed. Any discomfort and/or pain you may experience may come and go at first. This discomfort and/or pain will likely then become more chronic and intense if it is truly spinal stenosis.
On this site, you will learn the specific symptoms to look for so that you can determine whether spinal stenosis is a possibility. If you have any of these symptoms, it is in your best interest to contact a doctor for proper diagnosis and for advice on how to manage your symptoms.
What are the Causes of Spinal Stenosis?
There are many different health issues that can reduce the space within your spinal canal. Generally, these causes are a result of degeneration and the aging process. On this site, you will learn the common age-related causes, as well as more serious problems that can cause spinal stenosis.
What are the Treatments for Spinal Stenosis?
Treatment generally begins with more conservative options, such as finding ways to alleviate the pain and symptoms of spinal stenosis. The type and amount of pain relief you will receive will depend on the severity of your condition, your physical condition, and your commitment to the treatment plan.
After conservative treatments have been exhausted and the pain continues, there are more aggressive treatments that can be considered. This could include surgery, implants, and fusions. On this site, you will learn more in depth information on the different options available to you.
This site is to be used as a general source of information for spinal stenosis. If you suspect spinal stenosis, it is critical that you contact a qualified medical professional for a more accurate diagnosis and for further information.