Central stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal. The spinal canal is the innermost passageway within the spinal column through which the spinal cord runs. If this passageway is narrowed, the spinal cord is at risk of being compressed. Central stenosis is also known as central canal stenosis or central spinal stenosis.
The bones of the spinal column, called vertebrae, form a long shield around the spinal cord. This column of bones protects the spinal cord from damage. In addition to providing protection for the spinal cord, the joints and cartilage of the spinal column also allow the neck and back to move, bend and stretch. Occasionally, however, degeneration or damage to the spinal column can put pressure on the spinal cord, resulting in symptoms like pain, numbness, tingling and weakness.
It is not uncommon for the normally protective spinal column to experience degenerative changes that actually put the spinal cord at risk. Over the years, intervertebral discs weaken, bulge and tear and spinal joints become arthritic. Central stenosis can occur when a bulging disc, herniated disc, bone spur or other problem begins to take up space and encroach on the middle part of the spinal column, effectively causing a narrowing of the spinal canal. When central stenosis occurs and the spinal cord is compressed, the symptoms are often:
- Lower back pain, tingling or numbness that radiates to the hips, buttocks, legs and sometimes the toes.
- Dull aching pain concentrated in the lower back that may come and go. Pain may become more persistent over time or with movement, such as running, walking, standing or bending.
- In severe cases, leg pain and weakness that causes difficulty balancing and walking. This is known as neurogenic claudication.
If your central spinal stenosis symptoms are mild, conservative treatments are typically recommended, including rest, over-the-counter medications, deep tissue massage and, possibly, epidural steroid injections. However, if your central spinal stenosis has become severe, and you have serious, persistent difficulty standing and walking, your physician may recommend surgery to open up space in the spinal column and relieve the pressure on your spinal cord.
Traditional open spine surgery is not the only option for central stenosis, foraminal stenosis and other forms of spinal stenosis. At Laser Spine Institute, we will evaluate your condition to see if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive procedures, designed to take pressure off your spinal cord and relieve your symptoms. Contact us today for a review of your MRI or CT scan.