Spinal stenosis and arthritis of the spine often occur together. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal. Painful pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots may result. Similarly, arthritis in the neck and back may generate bone spurs and inflammation. Bone spurs occupy space in the spinal canal. Naturally, this narrowing of the spinal canal is also spinal stenosis.
Most spinal arthritis is osteoarthritis of the spine. Rheumatoid arthritis is a more serious autoimmune connective disease of the entire body which may present in the spine as spinal rheumatoid arthritis. Both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis cause joint inflammation, cartilage destruction, and bone spurring. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can thus result in spinal stenosis. Bone spurs can impinge on the neural tissue in and around the spinal column yielding very painful symptoms.
Bone spurs, also called osteophytes, are extra pieces of bone grown in response to bony inflammation. Bone spurs form as the body attempts to repair itself by stabilizing and supporting a weakened and degenerating spinal column.
Symptoms of spinal stenosis include pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness that radiates along the course of the impinged nerve. Collectively, these symptoms are known as a radiculopathy. Spinal arthritis of all causes creates localized symptoms in the area of its inflammation. These include:
- Throbbing and tenderness
- Limited range of motion caused by pain with movement
- Diminished flexibility
- Abnormal stiffness in joints
Arthritis and a radiculopathy may occur together amplifying the symptoms experienced. Untreated, bone spurs causing inflexibility may lead to joint ankylosis, the complete bony union of a joint.
Before your physician diagnoses you with spinal stenosis and/or arthritis, he or she should perform a full physical, most likely including an MRI or CT scan. You should carefully describe all of your symptoms accurately and honestly, being specific about which parts of your body are affected by symptoms. This will help your physician determine whether spinal stenosis or arthritis resides in your cervical (upper), thoracic (middle), or lumbar (lower) spine. Treatment prescribed should begin conservatively. This could include rest, weight loss, gentle chiropractic work, or anti-inflammatory and analgesic medications.
Unfortunately, these non-surgical treatments are not effective for every individual. If your physician suggests a traditional, open-back surgery like spinal fusion, joint replacement, or bone removal, you should explore all options. Undergoing surgery can be a life-changing experience. The experts at Laser Spine Institute (LSI) offer minimally invasive surgical procedures as an alternative to traditional open spine surgery. LSI can give you more information about spinal stenosis and arthritis, as well as explain our minimally invasive techniques. Our minimally-invasive, endoscopic procedures have helped tens of thousands of people on an outpatient basis. Contact us today for a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan.
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