Conditions

Understanding Spinal Stenosis

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What Is Spinal Stenosis?

Your spinal cord contains a hollow hole known as the canal. Through this canal, nerve endings and roots run through, much like a cable wire. As you move down the spine, the canal begins to narrow. This is normal; however, Spinal Stenosis occurs when the opening at the far end of the spine has become so narrow that is squeezes the nerve roots. The result of this nerve compression is a variety of pain-related symptoms.

Which Areas Are Affected by Spinal Stenosis?

The area that most commonly feels the greatest amount of pain is the lumbar spine; however, those with Spinal Stenosis also report pain in the neck (cervical pain) and the chest (thoracic pain).

How to Better Understand Spinal Stenosis

One of the best ways to visualize the impact of Spinal Stenosis is through a quick anatomy breakdown. Let’s start with the foundation of the spine: Your spine is a stacked pillar of bones called vertebrae. In the human spine, there 33 stacked vertebrae. At the bottom of the spine is the coccyn, more commonly known as the tailbone.

The Vertebra

Looking closer at the vertebra, you can see there is a hard piece of bone. Its function is to protect the spinal canal that we mentioned above. Remember, this is where the nerve roots run through. So what is holding the vertebrae together?

Ligaments

Ligaments are the key to ensuring that vertebra stay put. Ligaments also help to protect your spine and nerves. The most important ligament in relation to Spinal Stenosis is ligamentum flavum.

Ligamentum Flavum

This ligament plays a key role in Spinal Stenosis. When sitting down, the ligamentum flavum opens up, providing more room for spinal nerve roots. When standing, the ligamentum flavum shortens, providing less room. We’ll expand on this shortly but first, let’s talk about the nerves themselves.

Spinal Nerves

This messenger network is made up just like a cable cord with the nerves wrapped as a bundle. These nerves run from the top of the head down the length of the spine. These spinal nerves branch out at each vertebra. You’ll have a nerve to the left and to the right of the spine at each vertebra.

When Spinal Stenosis Occurs

Under normal circumstance, the spinal canal allows for plenty of room for spinal nerves. During Spinal Stenosis, the canal and the ligamentum flavum narrows, placing pressure directly on the nerves we mentioned above. As a result, the patient experiences a great deal of pain