Long Term Effects of Spinal Stenosis

by LMatthews on August 16, 2010

Cervical Spinal Stenosis

Reference Cedars Sinai

Unfortunately, virtually all adults suffer some degree of spinal stenosis as a natural result of aging. Stenosis literally means abnormal narrowing of a bodily canal or channel, in this case involving one or more of the spinal canal, intervertebral foramina (spaces between vertebrae) and/or nerve root canals. This can compress nerve roots and spinal nerves leading to myriad symptoms including lower back pain, pains in the lower extremities and neurogenic claudication. Long term this can severely affect quality of life.

Chronic Back Pain and Spinal Stenosis Symptoms

Unchecked, damage to the nerves can lead to numbness, paraesthesia (tingling sensations), and weakness in limbs. Longer bouts of exercise are likely to exacerbate the symptoms, which can initially be somewhat alleviated for some by lying down and/or flexing forward. Eventually endurance exercise becomes almost impossible and pain relievers reduce in efficacy, necessitating spinal stenosis surgery or other intervention.

Asymptomatic Spinal Stenosis and Spinal Cord Compression

Some older people have spinal stenosis and are asymptomatic, this likely depends on other factors such as inflammation, how extensive the narrowing is and where it occurs. If compression worsens and affects the spinal cord itself then myelopathy can occur, resulting in severe spinal stenosis symptoms such as loss of balance, chronic pain, loss of bladder function, and problems with fine motor skills. The damage is now not simply isolated to intermittent compression of one particular nerve, but consistent pressure affecting all of the nerves exiting the spine below the problem area and causing extensive symptoms.

Back Pain, Weakness, and Numbness

If spinal stenosis continues unchecked and is due to something such as hypertrophy of ligaments or bone surrounding the spinal column then problems may become more generalized as a result. The hypertrophy (abnormal growth) could indicate an underlying problem which will not remain isolated, but instead arise in other areas of the spine, causing further symptoms. For example, stenosis may first be noticed in the lower back (lumbar spinal stenosis) causing pain down the back of the legs and buttocks. Hypertrophy may also be occurring in the upper spine where this results in symptoms in the neck, head, and arms. Understanding the pathology at work when first observing the lower spine condition could help prevent the condition worsening and even spreading to degeneration in the upper vertebrae of the cervical spine, with severe long-term effects of spinal stenosis thus avoided.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Barend Fourie September 1, 2011 at 12:32 am

I am 34 years of age and have been diagnosed with lumbar spinal stinosis. There is movement in L4 AnL5
in the lower back. I dont want to consider surgery (spinal fusion) and certanly dont want to have to do it more than once.

What can i do??

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