What is canal stenosis?
Canal stenosis is a condition in which the spinal canal gradually narrows over time. The spinal column not only contains the vertebrae that make up the spine, but also many nerves and nerve roots that, if compressed by spinal narrowing, can send pain signals throughout the body.
What causes canal stenosis?
There are numerous things that can cause canal stenosis. For some people, the condition is genetic, meaning they are simply born with a narrower-than-normal spinal canal. For other people, the condition develops as a result of normal, age-related degeneration. As years of wear lead to a diminishing of the cartilage that lines the spinal joints (a condition known as osteoarthritis), bone spurs can form and protrude into the spinal canal. Herniated and bulging discs can also expand into the canal space and lead to canal stenosis.
Canal stenosis symptoms
By itself, canal stenosis is not necessarily painful. However, if a nerve root or the spinal cord becomes compressed, this can lead to a variety of symptoms. Compression of a nerve root in the upper spine can cause tingling, numbness and muscle weakness in the upper body (including the arm and hand), while compression of a nerve root in the lower spine can lead to the same in the lower body (including the leg and foot). Sometimes, there is also pain at the site of the compression.
How is canal stenosis diagnosed?
People who are experiencing one or more of these symptoms may turn to a physician for a diagnostic exam. Usually, a physician will take a full medical history, then perform a physical exam to test the patient’s reflexes and range of motion. From there, one or more diagnostic imaging, like an X-ray or MRI, can be ordered to confirm the cause of symptoms.
Common treatments for canal stenosis
Minor degrees of canal stenosis may not require any treatment. However, people who are experiencing symptoms as a result of their spinal narrowing may need to use a combination of therapies to manage their discomfort. Conservative therapies often include medications, exercises and physical therapy, as well as other nonsurgical options.
If needed, it is possible to use surgery to address the compression if symptoms do not respond to nonsurgical treatments. There are traditional open spine procedures that can be used to treat canal stenosis, as well as several minimally invasive alternatives.
At Laser Spine Institute in Cincinnati, we perform minimally invasive, outpatient canal stenosis surgery that offers several advantages over traditional open spine surgery. For example, our procedures have a shorter recovery time^ and less risk of complication, comparatively.
To find out if you are a candidate for canal stenosis surgery at Laser Spine Institute contact us today for a no-cost MRI review.*