What is Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal Stenosis animation of the spine narrowing.
Stenosis, by definition, means narrowing; add spinal to this and we narrowing of the spinal passage. More specifically, spinal stenosis refers to the slow progressive narrowing of the space in your spine reserved for your spinal cord and other spinal nerves. It is a condition that becomes more common as we age and can have a severe impact on our daily lifestyle and activity level if left untreated. Think about spinal stenosis as if the walls of your spine are slowly closing in on your spinal cord. If left untreated, the walls will eventually crush in on the cord making the section practically useless while causing enormous amounts of pain.
Spinal stenosis is not a condition that develops over night, it is almost always preceded by more common conditions such as spinal bone spurs, a herniated disc, disc bulges, disc tears, or scarring from previous injuries or treatments. Over time, if these other conditions are left un-treated and allowed to progress, symptoms of spinal stenosis will begin to be felt. For this reason, it is very important to be pro-active in dealing with your pain.
Note From Dr. Liu:
Treatment for spinal stenosis in the early stages will be less complicated than if it progresses further. Diagnosing this condition in its beginning phase is important.
Spinal Canal Narrowing Found in Spinal Stenosis
In figure 1a. you see what a normal healthy spine should look like. There is no evidence of spinal canal narrowing; therefore there is no pressure being placed on the spinal cord / nerves. In figure 1b. you can see that there is evidence of spinal canal narrowing that is found in cases of spinal stenosis. The narrowing is constricting the spinal cord and surrounding nerves causing pain and other symptoms.
If you think you are suffering from spinal stenosis, you should know that there are different stages of stenosis and that the treatment you need will be different depending on what stage your stenosis is in.