Cervical Spine Anatomy And Injuries
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the open spaces within your spine, which can put pressure on your spinal cord and the nerves that travel through the spine, and occurs most often in the neck and lower back. Most spinal stenosis occurs when something happens to reduce the amount of space available within the spine, such as, an automobile accident which causes dislocations or fractures of one or more vertebrae. When displaced bone from a spinal fracture damages the contents of the spinal canal, swelling of the adjacent tissue can put pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.
Many people have evidence of spinal stenosis on X-rays but will not feel the symptoms until sometime later. When symptoms do occur, they often begin gradually and worsen over time. Symptoms vary, depending on the location of the stenosis. Pain typically occurs in the:
- Neck – narrowing in the upper (cervical) spine can cause numbness, weakness or tingling in a leg, foot, arm, or hand. In severe cases, nerves to the bladder or bowel may be affected, leading to incontinence
- Lower Back – Compressed nerves in your lower (lumbar) spine can cause pain or cramping in your legs when you stand for long periods of time or when you walk.
Treatments for your spinal stenosis will vary depending on the location of the stenosis and the severity of your signs and symptoms. Treatments will include medications, therapy or surgery.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) help relieve pain and reduce inflammation
- Muscle relaxants such as cyclobenzaprine (Amrix or Flexeril) can calm the muscle spasms
- Anti-seizure drugs, such as Neurontin, Gralise and Lyrica, are used to reduce pain
- Opioids, such as oxycodone (Oxycontin or Percocet) or hydrocodone (Lortab or Vicodin)
Therapy: A physical therapist may help you to:
- Build up your strength and endurance
- Maintain flexibility and stability of your spine
- Improve your balance
Surgery: The goal is to relieve the pressure on your spinal cord or nerve roots. In most cases, surgery helps reduce spinal stenosis symptoms. But some people’s symptoms stay the same or get worse after surgery. Surgery will be considered if:
- More conservative treatments haven’t helped
- You’re disabled by your symptoms
- You’re in good health otherwise.