Spinal Stenosis is the narrowing of the spaces in the spine, caused by a deficiency of the spinal canal. The spaces of the spine included three main areas: the center of the spine, in which the spinal cord passes through, the spinal canals, in which the nerves branch out and the spaces between the vertebrae. When the nerves or spinal cord are compressed, the can become inflamed, causing spinal stenosis related symptoms.
The narrowing of these spaces occurs when:
• Pressure is placed on the spinal cord or nerves
• The tissue becomes thick or hardened
• Bones or joints grow
• Bone spurs develop
Most cases of Spinal Stenosis occur in the lumbar (lower back) region of the spine, but can also affect the cervical (neck), as well. When spinal stenosis of the thoracic (mid-back) region is affected, it is almost always in conjunction with lumbar stenosis.
Although Spinal Stenosis is a condition that can occur congenitally (at birth), due to an abnormally formed spine, it is usually due to the aging process as well as everyday activities. As we age, our ligaments thicken and calcify, thus creating a narrower opening for the nerves and spinal cord.
Statistics show that Spinal Stenosis is most common in men and women over the age of 50, unless it has occurred at birth, by trauma or as a result of the growth of a tumor.
A patient with Spinal Stenosis may or may not show signs/symptoms for many years. The symptoms of Spinal Stenosis can vary, depending on a person’s pain tolerance, the severity of the condition and where the narrowing is located along the spine. As the narrowing between the spaces of the spine become more confined, symptoms may begin to present themselves, initially with small amounts of pain that a person would normally brush off as common back pain, while treating the pain with anti-inflammatories. After days/weeks/months pass, the area may become more narrow due to the aging process and daily activities, and their pain may increase due to irritation or inflammation of the nerves and can result in a person experiencing stenosis symptoms when standing or walking. Cervical Stenosis pain can affect the neck, arms or hands as well as hand coordination. Lumbar Spinal Stenosis pain can radiate from the lower back to the buttocks, leg and/or foot of the affected side of the body, as well as affect a person’s balance and ability to walk.
There may be several causes of Spinal Stenosis and, although the leading cause is due to the normal aging process or injury to the spine from an accident, there are several other factors that can contribute to this condition.
The most common causes of spinal stenosis are:
- Osteoarthritis: Also known as degenerative joint disorder, osteoarthritis is the most common, disabling, painful joint disorder. It is the wearing out of the joints and affects approximately 30 million Americans, mostly women.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: An autoimmune disease, which leads to severe damage of the joints. Most common in the cervical (neck) region of the spine.
- Degenerative Disc Disease: One of the most common causes of lower back pain, Degenerative Disc Disease is a condition caused by the loss of cushioning between the vertebrae, due the breakdown on inter vertebral discs. The discs become stiff and rigid, causing movement to be limited. Degenerative Disc Disease is usually age/injury related, progressing gradually and often leads to loss of function unless diagnosed and treated properly.
- Paget’s Disease: The abnormal wear of bone tissue followed by abnormal bone growth, such as bone spurs. The vertebrae are the second most commonly affected area of the body.
- Trauma: Results caused by vehicle accidents, sports injuries or falls. These external forces can create nerve compression and symptoms of sciatica.
- Tumors: In rare instances, abnormal growths can develop, causing compression of the sciatic nerve.
If you, or someone you love, have been suffering from neck or back pain, New Jersey Spinal Medicine and Surgery can help. Contact us today to discuss treatment options. Our goal at New Jersey Spinal Medicine and Surgery is to get you back to a healthy and active lifestyle.