Spinal Stenosis is a Narrowing of the Spinal Canal
Have you been diagnosed with Spinal Stenosis? Central canal stenosis is a narrowing of the canal that houses the spinal cord. In essence, the spinal canal is a hole down the center of your vertebral column. Your spinal cord floats and lives in this space. Your spinal cord is a key part of your central nervous system, responsible for sending messages to and from your brain. The average central canal size is 14 mm wide. However, the spinal cord and soft tissue occupy approximately 10 mm of the canal.
Understanding Spinal Stenosis
This spinal narrowing can irritate the spinal cord itself or the nerve roots as they exit the spinal cord. As stenosis progresses, your spinal cord and its nerves are compressed or squeezed. The most common cause of spinal stenosis is the aging process, and is often found in patients over 50 years of age.
When spinal stenosis occurs in the neck it is called cervical stenosis. It can also happen in the lower back and is called lumbar spinal stenosis. The most common symptoms are pain, numbness, or muscle weakness into the legs, feet, or buttocks.
As we get older, our spinal bones may develop arthritis, ligaments that connect the vertebra may buckle and/or intervertebral discs may bulge or herniate. All of these degenerative changes can lead to spinal stenosis, which causes the space within the spinal canal to narrow. Spinal stenosis can occur at any level of the spine, however, it is more common in the lumbar spine and the cervical spine.
Some of the factors that cause spinal stenosis are:
- Degeneration of tissues
- Excessive bone growth (arthritis)
- Thickening of tissue in the canal (such as ligaments or cartilage)
- Herniated disc
- Genetics (naturally narrow canal)
- Sedentary lifestyle
We Help Patients Avoid Neck & Back Surgery
Spinal Stenosis Symptoms
Spinal stenosis can affect any part of your spine, and in some cases can be 100% asymptomatic. However, most patients that experience symptoms report the following:
- Spinal Stiffness (especially in the morning)
- Numbness (into the arms or legs)
- Pain (usually in the low back or neck)
- Sciatica (shooting pain down the leg)
- Foot Drop (painful leg weakness that causes loss of control of your foot)
- Difficulty Standing
- Difficulty Walking
- Neurogenic claudication (cramping associated with prolonged walking or standing)
- Loss of Bladder or Bowel Control (go to the emergency room immediately)
Have you been diagnosed with spinal stenosis and need help managing your symptoms?
Neuroforaminal Stenosis | The Peripheral Nervous System
As an aside, spinal nerves exit the spine through openings on both the right and left side of your spinal column through intervertebral foramina. Spinal nerves exit the foramen (opening) and travel to all areas of your body. Narrowing of these openings is called neuroforaminal stenosis. This type of stenosis impacts the peripheral nervous system.
The peripheral nervous system is made up of the nerves that branch off from the spinal cord. We have 31 pairs of spinal nerves: 8 cervical, 12 thoracic, 5 lumbar, 5 sacral, and 1 coccygeal. Each pair connects the spinal cord with a specific region of your body. Very close to the spinal cord, each spinal nerve branches into two nerve roots. The dorsal nerve root enters the spinal cord and is made up of sensory fibers. The ventral nerve root leaves the spinal cord and is made up of motor fibers.
Peripheral nerves communicate with the central nervous system by detecting and relaying messages. Messages relating to temperature changes, sensation, muscle function, pain, joint and body position to name a few. The peripheral nervous system and the central nervous systems are intimately interconnected. Spinal stenosis can affect either system.
Chiropractic Care for Spinal Stenosis in San Diego
Chiropractic care is an all-natural, non-invasive option for relieving spinal stenosis symptoms. If you’re suffering from spinal stenosis in your lumbar, thoracic, or cervical spine, consider chiropractic care as a treatment option. Stenosis often accompanies other symptoms that respond well to chiropractic care such as back pain, neck pain and joint stiffness. Our upper cervical chiropractors focus on body balance, and helping patients manage their symptoms.
Non-Surgical Solutions for Spinal Stenosis
There is no cure for spinal stenosis, but our doctors help many patients get pain relief with our gentle, non-surgical approach. Our spinal experts take a thorough health history, analyze any previously taken radiographs and MRI images, and determine if you are a candidate for our enhanced spinal care program. Many patients experience improved spinal flexibility and decreased pain.
Patients with advanced stenosis may require surgery if the spinal cord is compromised. One thing to keep in mind is that arthritis of the spine is progressive even after surgery. It is not uncommon to develop new symptoms years after surgery either at the same level or at nearby levels requiring a second or third surgery. Maintaining your spine after you have been diagnosed will require time and effort on your part to stay healthy.
Do you want a spinal stenosis specialist on your health team? Call us right away at (619) 313-5403.