Central canal stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal. The spinal canal is the central canal through which the spinal cord passes. As a person ages, stenosis of the central canal can be a normal phenomenon. It may affect any portion of the spine including cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine and symptoms depend on the portion affected.
Central canal stenosis symptoms
The symptoms of this condition depend on the location of the stenosis. However some of the common symptoms are as follows:
The pain may be referred to as dull. It usually comes and goes. Walking, standing, running or jogging can worsen the pain while sitting down can relieve the pain. The pain is usually felt in the neck, arms and lower back.
- Tingling or numbness and weakness
The symptoms of tingling, numbness and weakness are usually felt in the neck, hips and the buttocks. It often radiates to the arms, fingers, knees and toes.
- Neurogenic claudication
This symptom is felt in the severe stages of the illness. The affected person cannot walk due to pain and has problems with balance.
Central canal stenosis causes
Stenosis of the central canal occurs due to narrowing of the spinal canal, which can occur due to various reasons, some of which are :
The aging process brings about certain diseases. Central canal stenosis is one of those. This is because the spine degenerates and deteriorates as we age. This is why the older people are less flexible and suffer from joint pains than the young population.
- Poor posture
A bad posture also plays an important role in the development of central canal stenosis. When you always slouch instead of sitting up or standing up straight, you put unnecessary pressure on the spine. This pressure may cause the discs to bulge into the spinal canal.
Excess body weight adds strain to the spine as well. Obese people tend to carry more weight than people with a normal body mass index. When too much pressure is put on the spine, it can also lead to the narrowing of the spinal canal.
Cigarette smoking is dangerous for the health. It contains toxins that can harm the overall wellbeing of the body. In the long run, the toxins from the cigarette smoke result in reduction of the bone density leading to degeneration and narrowing of central canal.
- Other diseases
Diseases such as degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, injured soft tissue, spondylolosthesis and bone spurs can also cause stenosis.
Central canal stenosis diagnosis
If you experience any of the symptoms described above, then visit your physician. He will advise a diagnostic exam to find out the cause of the symptoms that you are having. Most physicians advise various imaging tests to diagnose central canal stenosis. Some of these tests are: X-Ray, CT (Computed Tomography) Scan or an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging).
Central canal stenosis treatment
Management depends on the severity of the symptoms and also on the cause of stenosis.
- Rest and Relax
If you have mild central canal stenosis, you will be advised to take rest. If your stenosis is just because of poor posture, rest and proper posturing will be advised by your doctor.
- Live a Healthy Lifestyle
You will be advised to stay away from smoking and lead a healthy lifestyle. Quitting cigarette smoking may be difficult at first, but once you stop it, your life will be much healthier. If your canal stenosis is due to obesity, you will be advised to lose the excess weight.
- Treatment using drugs
You may be advised to take various painkillers. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen are advised to reduce the pain and inflammation associated with the symptoms of canal stenosis. In cases of acute and severe pain corticosteroid injections may be given into the outermost covering of the spinal cord. But you have to remember that the medication does not really address the pain, it just masks the pain. When the effect of the medicine is gone, the pain comes back.
Surgery is an option only in severe and chronic cases, when the symptoms persist after many months of conservative treatment. During surgery your doctor opens up the spinal area and relieves the pressure on your spinal cord.
- Physical therapy
Physical therapy and other spinal exercises are also prescribed to strengthen the muscles of the back and abdomen and to maintain the stability of the spine.
Prevention of central canal stenosis
- Take a breather
If your work puts too much stress on your spine, get a leave of absence. You do not want to immediately put strain and stress on your back.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects
Lifting heavy objects will force additional strain on your spine. This strain will put pressure on you spinal canal. If you do that while you are still not fully recovered, you may worsen your condition.
- Eat a balanced meal
It wouldn’t hurt if you stay away from junk foods and alcohol. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. It will cleanse and detoxify your body and also help in the reduction of the symptoms of central canal stenosis.
Filed under: Spinal Stenosis