In addition to disease or injury, spinal stenosis can have another cause – one that isn’t discussed as frequently: birth defects. Spinal stenosis refers to the gradual narrowing of the spinal canal or one of the foramen in the vertebrae, eventually leading to nerve compression and back or neck pain. Known as acquired spinal stenosis, this deterioration of the spine is extremely common in patients as they grow older and can be expedited by the presence of a traumatic injury or a condition like degenerative disc disease. Primary spinal stenosis, on the other hand, refers to stenosis that a person is born with and can’t prevent. This inherited syndrome can leave an individual with a spinal canal that is narrower than others, which is not necessarily symptomatic, but can increase the likelihood of back problems that can appear later in life – or even as early as a person’s teens or twenties.
Symptoms of Primary Spinal Stenosis
By itself, having a spinal canal that is narrower than an average spine’s isn’t necessarily problematic. In fact, many people who experience primary spinal stenosis don’t even know they have it until adulthood when they begin to develop back problems. Back or neck pain only occurs when the spinal canal (or vertebral foramen) become so constricted that the nerve they are supposed to protect actually becomes compressed. This nerve compression can lead to a number of pain-related symptoms, including:
- Back or neck pain ranging from sharp pain to a dull, throbbing discomfort
- Unexpected muscle weakness
- Pain that seems to radiate or travel along the pinched nerve
- Acute loss of motor function or reflexes
- In emergency cases, incontinence or loss of bladder control
The good news is that primary spinal stenosis is just one cause of back pain, and is nowhere near as common as acquired spinal stenosis. However, if you are suffering from back or neck pain, the only way to clearly identify the source of your discomfort is by visiting your doctor for a full examination. To learn more about spinal stenosis and other back and neck problems, contact Laser Spine Institute (LSI).