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Posted on 08-30-2016

What is Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis defines the narrowing of the bone channel occupied by the spinal nerves or spinal cord. There are some individuals who are born with the congenital form of spinal stenosis, it  commonly develops with age as part of the degenerative cascade of the spinal disc. Many do not feel any effects of this narrowing initially; however, radiating pain, weakness and numbness will eventually become noticeable during the aging process. Spinal stenosis occurs at different points of the spine, though the symptoms of nerve compression are usually similar. A chiropractor will perform various tests to determine the cause and location of narrowing.

Lumbar vs. Cervical Stenosis

Lumbar spinal stenosis occurs in the lower back when the spinal nerve roots become compressed. This produces symptoms of sciatica, such as tingling, weakness or numbness that stems from the lower back into the buttocks and legs. Lumbar spinal stenosis causes claudication (leg pain with walking) in the same way of vascular insufficiency. If diagnostic tests show normal blood flow with a confirmation of spinal stenosis, these symptoms will often be classified as neurogenic claudication. Those with lumbar stenosis will describe an onset of leg pain that is relieved when sitting. It is also typically easier to walk with lumbar stenosis when flexing forward.

Cervical stenosis stems from the neck and can cause intense pain, meaning there is potential compression of the spinal cord. The spinal cord compression can lead to problems like extreme weakness and in severe cases, paralysis. Those who develop signs of spinal cord compression and have been diagnosed with cervical stenosis typically need more invasive treatment or surgery to prevent these life-altering consequences.

Cervical Stenosis and Spinal Cord Compression

Cervical myelopathy (spinal cord compression) occurs when the spinal cord is compressed as a result cervical stenosis. Cervical spinal stenosis with myelopathy is most common in elderly patients, as the spine degenerates during the aging process.

Those who are afflicted by cervical stenosis with myelopathy will show one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Heavy feeling in legs
  • Inability to walk quickly
  • Deterioration in fine motor skills
  • Intermittent shooting pain into arms and legs, especially when bending the head
  • Arm pain

Myelopathy affects the nerve tracts that run along the spinal cord. This causes deficits that can affect the whole body in the following ways: <ul>

  • Increased muscular tone in the legs
  • Deep tendon reflexes of the knee and ankle are accentuated
  • Forced ankle extension causes foot to beat up and down quickly
  • Scratching the foot's sole may cause the big toe to go up instead of down
  • Flicking the middle finger may cause the  thumb and index finger to involuntarily flex
  • Compromised coordination and difficulty walking and placing one foot in front of the other

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