Spinal Stenosis is one of the most common causes of back, neck, and sciatica pain. Most people have probably heard the term "spinal stenosis" before, but many may not have any idea what it actually is. In fact, some may even be suffering from it at this very moment and not even be aware of what causes it or what it actually does. However, it is important to know as much about it as possible so that you know how to treat it if you have it, or how to help prevent it from occurring if you don't.
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The word Stenosis is a Greek term that means "narrow or constricted space." And this is exactly what spinal stenosis is: a decrease in the size of the openings in the spine. When those openings get smaller, they can pinch the spinal cord or spinal nerves and cause pain.
Spinal stenosis occurs when the opening that one of those nerves runs through gets smaller, causing the nerve to be pinched. If it is the spinal canal that is narrowing and pinching the spinal cord directly, it is called canal stenosis. If it is the opening between the vertebrae that is shrinking and impacting one of the nerves exiting the spinal canal, it is known as foraminal stenosis. Both of these forms of stenosis can happen in any area of the spine, but mostly occur in the lower back and neck.
When these nerves get pinched, it can cause any number of problems. Of course, the number one symptom is PAIN. Spinal stenosis can be extremely painful for some people, although it can differ from person to person. Some may in fact have very little if any pain. In addition to the pain, there can be several other symptoms from stenosis depending on where the nerve is being pinched. These can include one or more of the following:
- Muscle weakness
- Tingling, numbness, or hot and cold feeling in the extremities
- Pain in other areas of the body related to where the nerve being pinched travels
- Difficulty moving or walking
So what causes spinal stenosis? Many cases occur because of a degeneration of the discs in the spine. When these discs start to break down for whatever reason, they start getting smaller and weaker, which means they cannot support the vertebrae as well as before. This causes instability in the spine, and can lead to the stenosis. But this is not the only cause of spinal stenosis. Heredity, back trauma, arthritis, or just the effects of getting older can all cause it to happen.
At the Illinois Back Institute we strive to educate everyone as much as possible about their back pain and sciatica, because it is proven that the more people know about their problem the more likely they are to eliminate it!
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