Canal stenosis defined
Canal stenosis is the medical term that refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal — the space formed by the openings at the back of the spine’s vertebrae that protects the spinal cord. This narrowing is usually caused by a condition in the spine, such as an out-of-place vertebra, disc, muscle, tendon or ligament. Canal stenosis may also be called spinal stenosis, spinal narrowing or central stenosis.
Canal stenosis diagnosis
Because canal stenosis can cause symptoms similar to those of many other spine conditions, it can be difficult to diagnose. For this reason, it is important to consult with a physician if you suspect you may be suffering from the condition. After listening to you explain your symptoms, your physician will likely request you to get an X-ray, MRI or CT scan to get a better look at your spine and pinpoint the precise cause of your pain.
Causes of canal stenosis
Canal stenosis can be caused by any underlying spine condition that leads to changes in the anatomical structure of the spine, such as a bulging or herniated disc, spondylolisthesis, bone spurs and spinal tumors, among many others. Many of these underlying conditions are the result of the degeneration that occurs in the spine as part of the natural aging process. However, additional factors like traumatic injury, obesity, continuous bending or twisting motions and participation in high-impact sports can cause an individual’s spine to undergo degenerative changes prematurely.
Canal stenosis symptoms
The narrowing of the spinal canal in and of itself is not painful, and some individuals may only be diagnosed with canal stenosis after undergoing medical imaging for a different issue altogether. When canal stenosis results in the compression of a nerve root or the spinal cord, however, symptoms of radiculopathy and myelopathy may develop, respectively. Symptoms of radiculopathy include pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness that travels to the extremities, while symptoms of myelopathy are more dispersed, and may also include the loss of fine motor skills and trouble walking.
Canal stenosis treatment
No matter what canal stenosis symptoms you may be experiencing, there are a number of treatments available to help patients manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Most often, a physician will begin by prescribing a regimen of nonsurgical treatment, as this is all many patients need to find sufficient relief. Commonly used methods of conservative treatment for canal stenosis include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, corticosteroid injections, physical therapy, low-impact exercise and spinal bracing. While undergoing treatment for canal stenosis, it is important to keep your physician informed of your progress so he or she can modify your treatment plan as necessary.
Canal stenosis surgery
If a patient finds several weeks or months of conservative canal stenosis treatment unsuccessful in relieving symptoms, surgery may be recommended. Patients in this situation have many surgical options available to them, and should make sure to thoroughly research each procedure’s potential risks and benefits to find the one that will best fit their needs.
One surgical option that offers many benefits is the minimally invasive, outpatient spine surgery performed at Laser Spine Institute. Our procedures are often the clinically appropriate first choice over traditional open neck or back surgery and we have helped more than 75,000 patients reclaim their lives from neck or back pain since 2005. If you would like to find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures, contact Laser Spine Institute today for a no-cost MRI review.* We have centers across the United States, including our state-of-the-art facility in Tampa, FL.