Spinal stenosis

Myelopathy

A condition that describes the narrowing that affects the spinal cord, which can sometimes lead to pain and numbness

What is spinal stenosis?

In response to the ageing process, wear and tear, or an inherited predisposition, your spinal canal can become too narrow, compressing the nerves inside. This is known as spinal stenosis. When it occurs in the lumbar spine it may or may not be associated with leg pain. In the neck the pressure is on the spinal cord unlike the lower back where it mainly affects nerves.

The difference is that compression of the spinal cord in the neck can lead to symptoms in the arms as well as the legs. This is called myelopathy which when established leads to worsening symptoms in the majority of patients. This is a potentially serious condition and would need a detailed discussion with your surgeon about treatment.

Need to know

  • Symptoms of spinal stenosis icon plus

    Symptoms of spinal stenosis include: - numbness in the hand, arm, foot or leg - problems walking and/or unsteadiness on your feet - neck pain, back pain and/or leg pain - loss of ability to do up buttons or write with a steady hand.
  • Screening and diagnosis icon plus

    Nowadays most surgeons will obtain a Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan which shows where the nerves are being compressed. In some patients because of unrelated health conditions like heart disease requiring a pacemaker MRI scans are not allowed. In these situations a CT scan may be obtained instead. A CT scan involves exposure to radiation but you should discuss the pros and cons with your surgeon.
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    Options are non-surgical or surgical treatment and would depend on individual circumstances. Routine exercises maybe helpful to improve mobility and truncal stability. Some patients may benefit from steroid or epidural injections into the spinal canal when there is associated leg or arm pain. In the most serious of cases your consultant may recommend surgery to relieve the pressure on the spinal cord nerve roots; the surgery may be done with or without spinal fusion.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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