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.
Canal stenosis occurs when an element in the spinal canal (such as a disc, vertebra or facet joint) becomes inflamed or shifted out of place, resulting in a narrowing of the spinal canal. Central canal stenosis may occur congenitally. A number of non-congenital spinal conditions may also cause spinal stenosis including spondylolisthesis, herniated discs, osteoarthritis, bone spurs and degenerative disc disease. Many of these conditions occur as a result of the natural aging process making them more common in patients over the age of 30. Congenital spinal stenosis may predispose a person to the symptoms of age related canal stenosis.
Most physicians will begin treatment of canal stenosis symptoms with conservative therapies. These treatments allow many patients to find relief from their symptoms within a few weeks, though some require more or less time. The following conservative treatments may either be prescribed individually or in conjunction with one another:
- Pain medications (over-the-counter or prescription strength)
- Bed rest
- Hot and/or cold compresses
- Weight loss
- Moderate exercise
- Physical therapy
Be sure to consult a physician or pharmacist before beginning any diet, exercise regimen or over-the-counter pain medication. Care should always be taken to reduce the risk for further complications and drug interactions.
While conservative treatments are beneficial to many patients, some may require surgery to treat canal stenosis. Patients who experience the continued pain associated with canal stenosis and its causes should contact Laser Spine Institute for information about our outpatient endoscopic procedures before submitting to traditional open spinal surgery.