Another catchall phrase, like sciatica is “stenosis”. This word by definition means the “closing in of a hole.” This interpretation alone can’t offer you back pain, but sometimes the effects of the stenosis may. To understand how stenosis can cause pain in the back or legs we need to know which holes are being closed.
Your spine has a central hole, or more correctly called the central canal, which runs the entire length of your spine; from the base of your skull to the top of your buttocks. Inside most of this hole is your spinal cord. Located on the sides of your spinal cord are 32 pairs of (left and right) “lateral recess” ; which is where the nerves branch off the cord. As the nerve moves out from the lateral recess it pierces through another hole called the foramen (foramen literally means hole in latin).
We all have a central canal running the length of our spine and on the sides are lateral recess which move into the foramen. By definition these are all holes. Your spinal cord is located inside the central canal, the spinal nerves branch off the spinal cord and pass through your lateral recesses then out the foramen. Anything that causes a closing in of these holes can be called “stenosis”.
There are several types of stenosis. A slipped disc could move into a place that closes off a hole and be called stenosis. A ligament could become scarred or calcify and create stenosis. The vertebrae could develop arthritis which may causes stenosis. A vertebrae may shift creating what is called a spondylolisthesis which could causes stenosis. The point, stenosis isn’t a diagnosis, it is more like a symptom of an underlying cause.
Some types of stenosis may be easy to correct, where others may be much more difficult. Saying you have “stenosis” doesn’t fully answer the “why” or the “how” it may be treated. MRI reports now explain the cause of the stenosis, which allows the doctor to know a correct course of treatment. Only with a complete and precise diagnosis can true treatment options and risks vs. benefits be honestly discussed.
Don’t let anyone tell you your diagnosis is stenosis, there is an underlying cause. By knowing this cause treatment can be rendered that may fix or offer relief for your “stenosis”.