The spine is a hollow, flexible column made up of many individual bones (vertebrae) that house the spinal cord, spinal fluid, intervertebral discs, and nerves. Each individual vertebra has a tunnel in the middle that the spinal cord runs through, and is separated from the vertebrae above and below it by cartilage, joint fluid and connective tissue.
Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the open spaces – both in the hollow center of the spinal column, and between each vertebrae – and it occurs most often in the neck and lower back. This narrowing can put pressure on the spinal cord and other nerves, and can result in the vertebrae rubbing against each other.
Although some people with spinal stenosis don’t experience any symptoms, many do have weakness, tingling or numbness in the extremities, and/or problems with bladder or bowel function.
Treatment for spinal stenosis varies depending on the severity of the symptoms, and can include:
- Medications such as muscle relaxers or NSAIDs
- Physical therapy and exercise
- Steroid injections
- Surgery in extreme cases
If you are experiencing symptoms of spinal stenosis, a visit to your doctor can confirm the diagnosis, the severity of the onset, and the treatment options available to you.