Central spinal stenosis refers to the narrowing the canal of the spine, causing compression on the spinal cord and nerves. Spinal stenosis can also occur because of a herniated disc, or from the degeneration of the spine. While some people are genetically predisposed to develop central spinal stenosis, most people develop the disease as a result of aging.
The spinal column is composed of bone structures, known as discs, that are surrounded by cartilage and joints that connect one vertebra to another. Vertebrae provide an enclosed column that protects and supports the nerves and spinal cord that runs through the length of the spine. When this enclosed column narrows and begins encroaching on the spinal cord within, dangerous side effects can occur because of pinched or compressed nerves. Central spinal stenosis occurs when the part of the lower lumbar region of the back, known as the central canal, narrows and compresses the nerve roots.
The compression of the nerve roots can be caused by various different injuries, diseases, or as a result of the aging process. A herniated disc, bone spurs, and diseases such an achondroplasia and Paget’s disease can cause central spinal stenosis. Some people are born with a smaller spinal cavity or have conditions such as scoliosis that can make it more likely that they will develop the condition. Arthritis and degenerative disc diseases will also cause spinal cord compression. Intense pressure on the spinal cord, a fractured vertebra, and other injuries to the central canal are other conditions that can lead to stenosis of the spine.
People who have central spinal stenosis usually first notice consistent leg pain that may be accompanied by numbness or tingling of the legs. Weakness of the legs is common, and most people will only find relief by sitting down for a period of time. Some people with central spinal stenosis will have trouble controlling their bowel movements, and they may experience intense back pain. Frequently, a person will feel wobbly or experience moments of imbalance when walking.
Lifestyle changes and physical therapy will help those suffering from spinal stenosis; however, the disease cannot be cured. Central spinal stenosis is usually a slow developing disorder that over a long period of time will severely effect a person’s ability to walk without pain. A physician may suggest surgery, possibly a spinal fusion or foraminotomy, to relieve the person’s symptoms. People should consult a physician for a diagnosis of and treatment plan.