Canal stenosis literally means narrowing of the central vertebral canal housing the spinal cord, as the word stenosis is derived from the Greek word for narrow (“stenos”) and canal refers to the central vertebral passageway that houses the spinal cord. Canal stenosis is referred to by various names such as spinal stenosis, central spinal canal stenosis or central stenosis.
The condition and its underlying causes can produce a number of uncomfortable symptoms. Many patients with spinal stenosis experience pain in the neck or back, as well as pain, numbness, tingling and weakness radiating to other parts of the body. Depending on the exact location of the stenosis, some patients may experience these symptoms in the neck, upper back, arms, lower back, hips or legs. Some patients may, however, experience no symptoms as a result of a narrowed spinal canal.
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 become inflamed and impinge upon the spinal canal.
- Herniated discs and/or bulging discs – When an intervertebral disc bulges and/or herniates, disc tissue may enter the spinal canal, causing stenosis.
- Bone spurs – The body commonly produces bone spurs (enlargements on a bone’s natural structure) as a means to mitigate bone-on-bone friction. In the spine, this friction can happen in several ways. For instance, intervertebral discs can 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, vertebrae remodel, or change shape to conform to the pressure applied by tendons and ligaments. This may stimulate the creation of bone spurs, which intrude upon the spinal canal.
These spinal conditions can be diagnosed through a variety of imaging techniques, including X-rays, MRI scans and CT scans. Physicians may also perform strength and reflex tests and take blood to test for other conditions that may cause canal stenosis.
Patients who have been diagnosed with central canal stenosis should consult their physicians to determine the proper course of treatment. Most patients are advised to follow a conservative, nonsurgical treatment regimen consisting of over-the-counter pain relievers, physical therapy, hot/cold therapy, lifestyle modifications such as losing weight and other common modalities. If conservative therapies prove ineffective after several weeks or months, a patient may be advised to undergo spinal surgery. The surgeons of Laser Spine Institute perform minimally invasive surgical procedures which may provide relief. Contact Laser Spine Institute for more information about our surgical techniques and to schedule a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan.