Spinal stenosis, is a condition of the spine, whereby the spinal canal begins to narrow at some regions, putting pressure on the spinal cord and its nerve roots. Thus, the canal becomes restricted, leading to neurological issues which includes blackouts, pain, weakness and problems with movement.
It is of several types, depending on the part of the spine affected. The most common types are cervical stenosis and lumbar stenosis; that is, when the cervical vertebrae or lumbar vertebrae becomes narrow.
Cervical stenosis is more dangerous than lumbar stenosis, because while the latter compresses a bundle of spinal nerves known as cauda equina, the former; cervical stenosis compresses the spinal cord itself.
This condition is usually seen in people above fifty years, because from this age, several people begin to develop arthritis where joints begin to degenerate and this is the most common cause.
Other causes include;
In this case, excess body tissues begin to form and press against the nerves or spinal cord; or soft tissues increase in size, causing inflammation of the spine.
An accident or trauma can cause a fracture to the spine or cause it to get inflamed leading to compression.
Worse still, fragments of bones from serious accidents can find their way into the spinal canal.
In this case, the individual inherits the condition. Either they are born with a small spinal canal or their canal is narrow as a result of some abnormal structuring of the vertebrae.
Also known as bone spurs, this is a condition where there is formation of bony projections along the margins of joints. This can cause the narrowing of the spine if these projections occur on the vertebral bones.
Herniation of Intervertebral Discs
The discs in between the vertebrae bulge out and get into the spinal canal.
When the bones are fragile, the spine can become compressed, narrowing the canal.
Thickening of the Ligaments
Due to a condition known as ligamentum flavum, the ligaments that keep the spine in place become thickened and bulge into the spinal canal.
There are symptoms of this condition which are more specific. They include;
- Foot Drop
The leg becomes so weak that the individual cannot help but let the foot go limp, hitting the ground.
- Inability to Control the Bladder/Bowel
When this condition becomes extreme, the nerves of the bowel or bladder become weak, making it impossible to hold in excretory waste with the anal or urinary sphincters.
The sciatic nerve becomes affected, causing pains which radiate from the buttocks or back, down to the leg.
- Pain While Standing or Walking
The vertebrae compresses the most while upright or walking, leading to sharp pains. However, research carried out on patients with lumbar stenosis shows that, leaning forward eases the pain by creating spaces between the vertebrae for the spinal nerves.
Companies like Orbbo, work to develop medical devices that can assist surgeons in repairing damage and relieving the pain from these issues.