Understanding Canal Stenosis
Canal stenosis, also called central stenosis, describes a degenerative condition in which the spinal canal becomes narrower due to some type of injury to, or deterioration of, the spine. The canal itself is the open passageway through which the spinal cord passes, and it is formed by the stacked vertebrae that make up the spinal column. Canal stenosis is distinct from foraminal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the bilateral passageways on either side of each vertebra through which spinal nerves pass as they extend from the nerve roots and spinal cord.
Causes of Canal Stenosis
Canal stenosis can occur for a variety of reasons, but the most common cause of this condition is age. As we get older, the components of the spine - vertebrae, intervertebral discs, facet joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons - all begin to degenerate. Discs my bulge or rupture; vertebrae may slip out of place; facet joints can become arthritic and develop bone spurs; connective tissues may begin to calcify and thicken. Any of these issues can infringe on the space of the spinal canal, causing it to narrow.
Other possible causes of spine damage that could lead to canal stenosis include:
- Traumatic injuries
- Congenital defects
- Spinal tumors
- Paget's disease
- Prolonged overexertion
- Lifestyle factors (smoking, obesity, etc.)
Symptoms & Treatment Options
Canal stenosis does not always produce symptoms. In fact, many patients may have the condition and never even know it. When discomfort does arise, it is generally because a bone, disc, or connective tissue is compressing the spinal cord (myelopathy). This can produce symptoms of pain, tingling, numbness, or muscles weakness that radiate through the back, neck, and and/or extremities, depending on the level of the spine that is constricted.
Conservative (non-surgical) treatments are generally effective at mitigating the symptoms of canal stenosis. Talk to your doctor about a treatment regimen designed specifically for your needs.