Central canal stenosis is a condition in which the spinal canal (the long channel where the spinal cord resides) gradually gets narrower over time. Canal stenosis is not to be confused with foraminal stenosis, a similar condition that affects the intervertebral foramina, or openings on either side of the spinal canal that allow the nerves to exit the spinal column.
Causes of canal stenosis
Central canal stenosis can be caused by a number of factors. For instance:
- Some people are born with a spinal canal that’s naturally narrower than most, and some people are born with a genetic condition that forces their spinal canal to get progressively narrower. These situations are classified as congenital stenosis.
- Some people will experience age-related narrowing as they get older, which is known as degenerative stenosis.
On rare occasions, a spinal tumor can also lead to narrowing of the central canal, as can environmental stressors. However, these factors account for a very small percentage of cases; the vast majority can be attributed to ordinary age-related degeneration.
Regardless of the cause, central canal stenosis rarely causes symptoms unless the narrowing is moderate or severe. In fact, people with mild stenosis may not even realize they have it. That’s because most of the symptoms only develop if the narrowing becomes so advanced that it compresses the spinal cord or one of the nearby nerve roots. When this happens, patients may experience pain at the site of the compression or pain, numbness and muscle weakness that radiates down a nerve root.
Managing the symptoms
For the most part, the symptoms of canal stenosis can be managed through conservative treatments, such as medications and physical therapy. However, stenosis isn’t a condition that can be truly reversed through conservative measures, so some patients may eventually require surgery to create more space and decompress nerves in their spinal canal.
If that’s the case for you, Laser Spine Institute can help you explore your minimally invasive treatment options. If you’d like to discuss your central canal stenosis with one of our orthopedic experts, contact us today.