The body has various pipes and tubes ( including blood vessels and the spinal canal ) that travel through the body.

The term stenosis simply means that something starts to plug up those tubes and leads to their narrowing. 

And spinal stenosis affects the spinal canal.  Anything that gets into these tubes, whether it is cholesterol, spinal disc, cyst, or a bone can cause problems short or long-term.

Spinal stenosis


Spinal stenosis is very common.

Oftentimes it affects the cervical and lumbar spine. It may lead to back pain but not necessarily. The patient’s condition may become very serious and an emergency operation may be required even though the patient does not have any pain.

Stenosis often affects older people and causes lumbar back pain radiating to the buttocks, thighs, and below

It’s important to understand that cervical stenosis is the most common reason for quadriplegia and losing the ability to walk and the ability to use the arms and legs and other functions of the body in people over  65 years old. 


Stenosis and spinal cord


The spinal cord consists of billions and billions of cells. We have a certain amount of tissue in the body, including nervous tissue that forms the spinal cord. 

When we are born we have 100% of cells, but with time, the spinal cord starts to degenerate. By age of 85, people start to really struggle with walking, mobility, and balance, their dexterity can also be affected. 

The stenosis may speed up that process. Even younger people can start having these problems. It is not uncommon to see patients in their 50’s or 60’s struggling to walk.


Stenosis and spinal cord degeneration


The nervous system has a fantastic ability to compensate for the lost functions.

If, for instance, the part of the cord responsible for moving the hand is damaged, another part of the cord can fulfill this role. We often do not realize this is actually happening as we do not have any symptoms!

The problem arises when the rate of damage becomes larger than the rate of recovery. With age, the nervous system does not seem to work as efficiently, and its capacity to recover significantly diminishes. 

Unfortunately, the lost functions can be seldom recovered.



The spinal cord is like the brain


The spinal cord is an extension to the brain.

It is basically the same, delicate tissue. It can be damaged in the same fashion as the brain. When it gets bumped into it turns into a liquid, it disappears.

Luckily, the other parts of the spinal cord have the capacity to take over the functions of the damaged tissue (neuroplasticity). This process happens without our awareness, it is painless and works well, especially in young people.

Getting older makes this process more difficult though. Once we have passed the tipping point, we start losing strength, dexterity, coordination, balance, etc.


Spinal Stenosis – what’s causing it?


It is often a result of aging and degenerative changes within the spine.

Thick ligamentum flavium, excessive bony tissue arising in the spinal cord, changes affecting intervertebral discs can all be causing stenosis


Spinal Stenosis symptoms


Patients very often have increased pain when walking (Neurological Claudication) forward flexion and sitting bring temporary pain relief. Imaging studies are usually very helpful in informing diagnosis (x-Ray or more detailed MRI)

Lumbar stenosis may be progressive and cause:

  • Difficulty with passing urine, opening bowels
  • Sexual disfunctions
  • Muscles weakness


Spinal Stenosis treatment


In the initial phase:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Rest

can be helpful.

However, there is often a need for a surgical intervention, which is intended to remove the pressure off the spinal cord or nerve root


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