Severe canal stenosis is a term used to describe the extreme narrowing of the central vertebral canal and lateral foramina – the passageways that house the spinal cord and spinal nerve roots, respectively – and the severe symptoms that can result from neural compression. The spinal narrowing may be slowly caused by aging, or more rapidly occur due to conditions such as herniated discs, bone spurs, ligament thickening or other processes. Canal stenosis, which is also known as central stenosis or spinal stenosis, only becomes symptomatic when neural tissue is encroached upon. The greater the encroachment, the more severe the symptoms become. Severe spinal stenosis can produce debilitating symptoms such as radiating pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness.
Anatomical components involved with spinal stenosis
Most of the conditions that can lead to severe canal stenosis are associated with the aging process. Everyday wear and tear takes a toll on the components of the spinal anatomy. This reduces the space available for the spinal cord and nerve roots. The components of the spinal anatomy generally associated with the development of stenosis include:
- Intervertebral discs – spongy cushions between individual vertebrae; made up of gel-like nucleus pulposus and a fibro-elastic outer wall.
- Foramina – openings on either side of vertebrae, through which nerve roots pass.
- Facet joints – points where vertebrae meet and articulate.
- Pedicles – two thick processes that project backward off the vertebral body to connect the body to the vertebral arch.
- Laminae – thin plates that extend off the pedicles and form part of the vertebral arch.
- Ligaments – fibrous tissues that connect bone to bone.
Treating severe canal stenosis
Most of the time, symptoms associated with mild to moderate canal stenosis can be symptomatically managed using conservative treatments, such as exercise, stretching, pain medication or behavior modification. However, if debilitating symptoms caused by severe spinal stenosis persist despite weeks or months of conservative treatment, surgery may be indicated. If so, individuals can contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure performed using innovative technology may help treat the cause of spinal stenosis symptoms.