spinal stenosis

The spine is the body?s scaffolding. Its stacked column of 26 bones supports the head, shoulders, and upper body, and enables you to stand upright, bend over, and move. A number of conditions can affect the spine, causing pain and disrupting mobility. Spinal stenosis involves a narrowing of the spaces in various parts of the spine. This narrowing can put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, causing pain or numbness in the back, arms, and/or legs. Some people with spinal stenosis also have trouble controlling bowel or bladder function.

You?re more likely to develop spinal stenosis as you get older, due to wear and tear on the spine. Some people inherit a vulnerability to spinal narrowing. Other causes of spinal stenosis include herniated disks, tumors, and spinal injuries that dislodge or fracture the vertebrae of the spine.

Doctors use imaging tests such as x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to detect damage to the spine and diagnose spinal stenosis. Treatment for spinal stenosis can include medicines to ease nerve pain and reduce inflammation, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, antidepressants, and anti-seizure drugs. Opioid medicines can help with severe discomfort, but these powerful pain relievers need to be used with caution because they can become addictive.

Steroid injections can help relieve inflammation and reduce pressure on the spine. Physical therapy helps to strengthen the muscles that support the spine. A physical therapist can also teach exercises that improve flexibility and balance. Some people may need to use assistive devices, such as a cane or walker, to give them more stability while walking.

When these treatments don?t help, surgery may be an option. Procedures for spinal stenosis remove part of the affected vertebrae, creating an opening that relieves pressure on nerves. Metal hardware may be implanted to fill the gap left by the removed section(s), and keep the spine upright.

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