If you experience numbness or tingling in the back, arms or legs, see a doctor for proper evaluation. You may be experiencing symptoms of spinal stenosis or the narrowing of the spaces within the spine. Spinal stenosis compresses the spinal cord and its nerve roots, resulting in a range of symptoms that can affect the overall quality of life.
At Nacogdoches Medical Partners in Nacogdoches, TX, our comprehensive orthopedic program is here for you from diagnosis through recovery and rehabilitation. Count on our expertise and technology to treat spinal conditions, spinal cord injuries, back pain and more. We have a dedicated neurological critical care unit, long-term rehabilitation and outpatient follow-up care.
What Is Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is where the spinal canal or spaces inside the spine narrow, creating pressure on the nerve roots, spine and related structures. This causes a pinching of the nerve roots and spinal cord, resulting in cramping, weakness or pain. Spinal stenosis symptoms can be felt in the neck, lower back and legs, shoulder or arms depending on the affected area, namely:
- Cervical spinal stenosis – affects the vertebrae in the neck.
- Thoracic spinal stenosis – affects the vertebrae in the upper back.
- Lumbar spinal stenosis – affects the vertebrae in the lower back.
What Causes Spinal Stenosis?
Typically, a spinal canal provides enough room for the spinal cord and cauda equina (nerve group at the spinal cord’s end). However, age-related conditions, injuries, inherited conditions or other diseases can narrow the spinal canal. Here are some causes of spinal stenosis:
- Bone spurs – small, abnormal bone growth that can cause pain if it rubs on a nerve.
- Congenital spinal stenosis – a condition that is present at birth.
- Fractures due to injury or other medical conditions – may cause some bone fragments to penetrate the spinal canal or dislocate the spine, reducing the space in the canal.
- Herniated disc – the spinal discs lie between the backbones to act as spacers and shock absorbers in-between the spine. As the disc ages, it can dry out, crack and bulge, placing pressure on the nerve root or spinal cord.
- Osteoarthritis – a degenerative joint disease that can lead to spinal disc degeneration and bone overgrowth or enlargement, resulting in spinal canal narrowing.
- Paget’s disease of bone – a chronic condition that causes new bones to form incorrectly and weaker than usual.
- Posterior longitudinal ligament (PLL) ossification is one of the three ligaments contributing to spinal stability. With ossification, calcium deposits form on the PLL and inside the spinal canal, turning the PLL’s fibrous tissue into the bone that may press on the nerves in the canal.
- Rheumatoid arthritis – a chronic inflammatory disease that often affects joints. This condition can affect the spine’s facet joints and lead to stenosis.
- Scoliosis – an abnormal curvature of the spine.
- Spinal tumors – abnormal soft tissue growths that cause inflammation or tissue growth into the spinal canal.
- Spondylolisthesis – poor spinal alignment due to a vertebra slipping forward on another vertebra. This condition can put pressure on the nerve roots or spinal cord.
What Are the Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis in the lower back may cause these symptoms:
- Lower back pain.
- Numbness, cramping, or tingling in the legs and feet become more pronounced when walking or standing.
- Burning pain that radiates down the buttocks and into the legs.
- Lower-limb pain that worsens with walking or standing but relieves a bit when leaning forward.
- Weakness in the lower limbs.
On the other hand, you may feel the following symptoms with cervical spinal stenosis:
- Neck pain.
- Weakness in the upper limbs.
- Tingling or numbness that radiates down the arms into the hands.
Severe spinal stenosis may affect a person’s bowel, bladder or sexual function.