Spinal Stenosis is a condition in which one or more areas of the spine are narrowed. It can involve the spinal canal in the center of the vertebrae and the side openings or the openings between the vertebrae where nerves branch out from. These areas are called foramina. Spinal Stenosis is more common in people over the age of 50. It can occur in younger people that were born with a narrowed spinal canal, a spinal curvature, or experience an injury to the spine. There are many causes of Spinal Stenosis.
Spinal Stenosis is most frequently caused by the gradual degeneration of the spine during the aging process. The intervertebral discs become less fluid-filled and harden with age. They can lose height and bulge into the spinal canal. The spinal fact joints and ligaments can thicken and enlarge, pushing into the spinal canal. Arthritis is the main cause of these structural changes.
Arthritis is a major cause of pain, swelling, and structural changes in the lumbar spine. Arthritis can occur for many reasons, including aging, “wear and tear,” injury, autoimmune disease, and inflammatory disease. There are over 100 different types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis are types of arthritis that typically develop in the spine.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It is a chronic and degenerative condition. Osteoarthritis tends to appear as people grow older. It causes cartilage to gradually wear away and an overgrowth of bone to develop. Abnormal bone growths, called spurs or osteophytes can grow into the spinal canal and vertebral joints. The bone spurs can compress the spinal cord and nerves, disrupting their function.
Spondylosis is a condition that can result when Osteoarthritis affects the intervertebral discs and the vertebral facet joints. Spondylosis causes disc degeneration and the overgrowth of bone into the spinal canal or nerve root canals. A condition called Spondylolisthesis causes one vertebra to slip forward on another.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is one of the most serious and disabling types of arthritis. Rheumatoid Arthritis can affect people of all ages, but most frequently occurs in women and those over the age of 30. It is a long-lasting autoimmune disease that causes the synovium, the soft tissues of the vertebral joints, to be inflamed and painful. It also causes joint swelling and deterioration. Rheumatoid Arthritis is not a common cause of Spinal Stenosis in the lumbar spine, although it can disrupt joint functioning.
Spinal tumors are abnormal soft tissue growths. Acquired Spinal Stenosis develops when spinal tumors grow into the spinal canal or cause swelling. A spinal tumor may also cause the vertebrae to shift out of place because of bone loss.
Trauma from motor vehicle crashes or work related injuries can dislocate the spine and the spinal canal. Acquired Spinal Stenosis occurs because the spine is moved out of alignment, causing the spinal canal to narrow. “Burst” fractures from traumatic injury can cause bone fragments to enter the spinal canal and aggravate the spinal cord and spinal nerves.
Paget’s Disease is a chronic bone disorder that frequently develops in the spine. Paget’s Disease causes extreme bone destruction or overgrowth. The affected bone is unable to repair itself normally. Instead, it produces enlarged, abnormal, and fragile bone. As a result of structural problems, the vertebrae shift into the spinal canal space causing Acquired Spinal Stenosis.
Another cause of Acquired Spinal Stenosis is Fluorosis. Fluorosis develops from excess levels of fluoride in the body. This can occur from inhalation of industrial gas or dust contaminated with fluorides, drinking water high in fluoride, or from consuming fluoride insecticides. Fluorosis causes the spinal ligaments to produce calcium deposits and harden. It causes the vertebrae to soften and weaken, leading to Acquired Spinal Stenosis.
Acquired Spinal Stenosis can also develop when a spinal ligament ossifies. Ossification occurs when calcium deposits form on a ligament and turn it into bone. The posterior longitudinal ligament attaches to the spine and can cause stenosis if it ossifies and presses on the nerves in the spinal canal.