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What is spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the open spaces within the spinal column. Most often, the tightening effect results from age-related degenerative changes that take place gradually over time. For instance, a bulging or herniated disc, inflamed facet joint, thickened ligament or bone spur can encroach the already limited space within the spinal canal. While the narrowing itself is not necessarily problematic, it can potentially lead to discomfort if the spinal cord or a nearby nerve root becomes squeezed or compressed as a result.

What are the symptoms of spinal stenosis?

If spinal stenosis does not involve nerve compression, it may not produce any symptoms. In fact, some people who have the condition remain completely unaware of it. On the other hand, a compressed spinal nerve can produce various forms of discomfort, including localized and radiating pain, tingling sensations, numbness, muscle weakness and difficulty walking. The nature and severity of the symptoms will generally depend on the location of – and amount of pressure being exerted on – the affected nerve. In very severe cases, a rare but serious complication known as cauda equina syndrome may develop. This condition, which can cause bladder or bowel incontinence, requires emergency medical attention to prevent lasting damage.

How is spinal stenosis treated?

Mild-to-moderate spinal stenosis symptoms can often be treated effectively with pain-relieving medications, physical therapy or steroid injections. However, to address debilitating symptoms that do not respond sufficiently to conservative treatment, surgery may be recommended to create additional space for compressed spinal nerves.

Surgical decompression procedures that may be performed to treat spinal stenosis include a laminectomy, which involves the removal of the entire back part (lamina) of a vertebra, and a laminotomy, which involves the removal of a portion of a lamina. In some cases, a spinal fusion procedure may be recommended to strengthen and stabilize the spinal column by encouraging two adjacent vertebrae to grow together into a single, solid piece of bone.

If you are experiencing spinal stenosis symptoms, you can confidently entrust your care to the spine specialists at Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine of Houston. We offer comprehensive, state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment services at three convenient locations in the Houston, Texas, area.

For more information about spinal stenosis, contact Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine of Houston, TX, today.