The word stenosis is derived from the Greek word stenos, meaning narrow. Canal refers to the central vertebral canal which houses the spinal cord. Canal stenosis literally means narrowing of the central vertebral canal housing the spinal cord. Central spinal canal stenosis is referred to by various names such as spinal stenosis, canal stenosis, or central stenosis. Canal stenosis and its underlying causes can produce a number of uncomfortable symptoms. Many patients with canal stenosis experience pain in the neck or back, as well as traveling pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in other parts of the body. Depending on the exact location of the stenosis, some may experience these symptoms in the shoulders, arms, and legs. Some patients may, however, experience no symptoms as a result of canal stenosis.
Conditions causing canal stenosis
There are many spinal conditions that may lead to the development of canal stenosis, including the following:
- Osteoarthritis – This type of arthritis is typically acquired through the natural aging process and involves the degradation of cartilage within joints. Spinal osteoarthritis can cause the joints to enlarge and impinge upon the spinal canal.
- Bone spurs – A main cause of bone spurs is bone-on-bone friction. In the spine, this friction can happen in several ways. For instance, as intervertebral discs collapse due to age-related degeneration allowing the vertebrae to rub against one another. This prompts the formation of bone spurs that may encroach upon the spinal canal. Finally, with continued stress, vertebra remodel, or change shape to conform to the pressure applied by tendons and ligaments. This may stimulate the creation of bone spurs (enlargements on a bone’s natural structure), which intrude upon the spinal canal.
- Herniated discs and/or bulging discs – When an intervertebral disc bulges and/or herniates, disc tissue may impinge upon the spinal canal, causing stenosis.
These spinal conditions can be diagnosed through a variety of imaging techniques, including an X-ray, MRI and CT scans. Physicians may also perform strength and reflex tests and take blood to test for other conditions which may cause canal stenosis.
Patients who have been diagnosed with central canal stenosis should consult their physicians to determine the proper course of treatment. If conservative therapies such as bed rest and over-the-counter pain medication prove ineffective, surgery may be indicated. The surgeons of Laser Spine Institute perform minimally invasive surgical procedures which may provide relief. Contact Laser Spine Institute for more information about our safe and effective techniques and to schedule a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan.