Spinal Stenosis From a Car Accident

Spinal Stenosis From a Car Accident

Written by Jeremy D. Earle, JD

May 18, 2022

Do Car Accidents Cause Spinal Stenosis?

Plumbing in the modern era is a technical marvel, but it isn’t without flaws. What happens when minerals and other crud cover the inside walls of your pipe over time? It poses a difficulty for the whole system by impeding the flow of water.

A similar phenomenon might happen in several places of your body. Plaque is a sticky substance that sticks to the arterial walls. If a plaque fragment breaks off, a blood clot may develop around it,  blocking blood flow to the heart or brain, resulting in a bang. Stroke or heart attack, Unfortunately, the news is not good.

Within your spine, something similar may occur. The spinal cord should be able to traverse the whole length of the spine if the spinal canal is large enough. Nerve roots or the spinal cord itself may           get compressed if that space narrows, which can happen owing to a herniated disc or occasionally a  bony overgrowth. Stenosis narrowing the spinal canal causes various back pain symptoms and  disorders, including dreaded sciatica.

Do you want to understand more about spinal stenosis, including how it occurs, the symptoms it causes, and how to cure it? You’ve arrived at your destination. Continue to the next section.

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What Is Spinal Stenosis, and How Does It Affect You?

The definitions of each term provide a hint to solving this question. The term “spinal” refers to the backbone of a person’s body. Stenosis is a medical word for a narrowing of a normally large aperture. The cervical (neck), thoracic (chest), and lumbar (lower back) spines are all susceptible to  spinal stenosis.

Spinal Stenosis: A Visualization

Your spinal column, like your home’s plumbing system, contains several passages that must be free  of obstructions for proper flow. The spinal canal and the neuroforamen serve as pathways in the  spine.

The spinal canal is a vertical opening in which the spinal cord is contained (from the cervical  spine down to the upper lumbar L1 level). Nerve roots for lower extremity motor and sensory function and bowel/bladder sphincters are found in the spinal canal below L1. The neuroforamen  are natural passages between vertebrae that allow spinal nerve roots to leave the spinal canal.

Above is a diagram: The spinal cord is encased and protected by the bone components that make up the spine. Small nerve roots emerge from the spinal cord and leave the spinal canal through the neuroforamen passageways.

The following illustration depicts lumbar (low back) spinal stenosis. Take note of the spinal canal’s constricted portions (reddish-colored areas). The spinal cord and adjacent nerve roots are  compressed when the canal space narrows, resulting in various symptoms. Nerve compression is the  medical word.

Spinal Stenosis, and Anatomy

The spine is made up of vertebrae, which are interconnected bones. The spine consists of 24 vertebrae, as well as the sacrum and tailbone (coccyx).

The lamina, a bony plate that covers the spinal canal and spinal cord, is located at each vertebra’s  rear (posterior). Spinous processes are bony tabs that join muscles and ligaments to your spine.

Ligaments attach to the vertebrae and help to keep them stable. In the case of spinal stenosis, a particular ligament known as the ligamentum flavum is a common suspect. The ligamentum flavum stretches out as you sit down and lean forward, making more space for the spinal nerves in your  spinal canal. The ligament flavum, on the other hand, gets shorter and thicker as you stand up and  lean back, leaving less space for the spinal nerves. This dynamic capacity explains why sitting is more comfortable than standing or walking for those with spinal stenosis.

The intervertebral discs are robust fibrous shock-absorbent cushions that sit in between each  vertebra. A tire-like outer band (annulus fibrosus) surrounds a gel-like interior material in each disc  (nucleus pulposus).

Each vertebra has a ring through which the spinal cord, a thick bundle of nerves extending  downward from the brain, passes. The spinal canal is formed by these rings lining together.

Two nerves, one to the right and one to the left, branch out of the spinal cord between each  vertebra via the foramen.

The spinal canal and foramen are large enough for the spinal cord and nerve roots to pass through. Spinal stenosis may result from any or both of these narrowings.

The Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis

In most cases, stenosis symptoms worsen with time. Because nerves grow progressively compressed  as they age, mild indicators of stenosis may become more prominent, and perhaps chronic, over  time.

Balance and gait problems and clumsy or dexterity concerns with the hands are common symptoms of cervical or thoracic spinal stenosis (myelopathy), in which the spinal cord impinges.

Lumbar stenosis may cause the following symptoms:

Walking problems or pain (neurogenic claudication) Leg ailment

Numbness and burning in the buttocks or legs, on occasion or regularly.

Pain in the lower back, particularly while walking

Foot drop occurs when the front half of the foot is difficult to raise.

Resting might help relieve symptoms temporarily, but they usually return as you move. Causes and Risks of Spinal Stenosis

Because the spinal canal narrows with age, the most prevalent cause of spinal stenosis is aging.

Degenerative changes in the spine are evident in up to 95 percent of persons by age 50, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), with spinal stenosis happening most often in those over 60. The illness affects men and women equally.

Although you can’t stop yourself from aging (we’ve tried), several variables might boost your chance  of acquiring stenosis, including:

Congenital and hereditary disorders, such as achondroplasia, which interferes with bone growth in the spine, and scoliosis, which may come from a genetic disease.

Arthritis disorders that affect the spine, such as ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and spondylosis(osteoarthritis in the spine), may cause persistent inflammation and badly impact cartilage between vertebrae, possibly driving bone spur formation in the spine.

Bone problems, including osteoporosis and Paget’s disease, causing bones to deteriorate.

Injuries or tumors, such as fractures, sliding discs, and abnormal tissue development, may all exert pressure on nerves in the spine and impact bone health.

The AAOS says that for these reasons, arthritis is the most frequent for stenosis. With that disease, the body creates bone spurs to support the joint, and ligaments expand in size. Both of those consequences restrict the room for nerves, increasing the likelihood of stenosis.

Spinal Stenosis Diagnosis and Tests

Stenosis is diagnosed by an examination that involves discussion of medical history, including any illnesses like arthritis, as well as imaging studies such as:

General mobility: For example, you may be asked to bend forward or to the side to evaluate restrictions or beginning discomfort.

X-rays: X-rays best represent hard tissue such as bone. They may indicate age-related changes like bone spurs or a decrease in disc volume, and you may be requested to have an X-ray taken while you lean forward. This may demonstrate instability in the joints.

Magnetic resonance imaging: An MRI will be able to reveal pictures of soft tissues—including nerves, discs, ligaments, and more—that pass through the spinal cord.

Computed tomography: CT scans may identify injury or weakening in bones via a cross-section picture of the spine.

Myelogram: This test employs contrast dye to identify neural pathways, which may assist diagnose nerve compression.

Spinal Stenosis Treatment Options

As with many other back pain disorders, your treatment choices will depend on the intensity of your

symptoms and how much they influence your quality of life. In general, if the stenosis is detected while there’s still reasonably excellent mobility, the therapy will reduce discomfort.

First-Line Treatment

Physical therapy is generally advised as a first step in stenosis treatment as this may help strengthen muscles—relieving strain on the spine. Your doctor may also offer stretching exercises and core strengthening to promote improved flexibility and support for the spine.


Because pain is produced by pressure on the spinal nerve, pharmaceutical use normally focuses on lowering inflammation. This may be done with cortisone injections into the spinal column and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) for pain management.


Surgery may be a possibility if first-line therapies fail or considerable discomfort and loss of movement. Patients with cervical or thoracic myelopathy caused by spinal canal stenosis often have neurologic impairments such as numbness, weakness, and gait imbalance. Thus surgery should be undertaken sooner rather than later to avoid lasting nerve damage.

Cervical laminoplasty, cervical laminectomy and fusion, anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, anterior cervical corpectomy and fusion, thoracic laminectomy, thoracic decompression and fusion, and thoracic decompression and fusion are just a few of the surgical techniques used to treat  cervical or thoracic stenosis.

Lumbar stenosis is treated using the following procedures:

Laminectomy. The afflicted vertebra’s lamina is removed. This procedure, also known as decompression surgery, is designed to relieve nerve pressure by making more room for them. A laminectomy may involve a spinal fusion if there is accompanying instability or deformities of the spine, such as spondylolisthesis or scoliosis.

Foraminotomy and Laminotomy are two types of laminotomies. Only a little piece of the lamina and facet joint is removed in this treatment, leaving only a small space for the nerve to pass through. Spinal Stenosis Home Remedy

Some home care measures and complementary treatments, in addition to front-line therapy, may help to alleviate symptoms:

Acupuncture and massage are two treatments that may be used to help you feel better.

Tai Chi or gentle yoga.

For muscular relaxation, use a heating pad or a warm cloth.

Swelling and pain relief with cold treatment and ice packs Spinal Stenosis’s Complications

Many procedures for spinal stenosis, according to Mayo Clinic, assist in alleviating symptoms, but  this isn’t always the case. Following surgery, some people’s symptoms may remain the same or worsen. A possible danger is that infection, a break in the membrane that covers the spinal cord, a blood clot in a leg vein, and neurological degeneration.

There’s always a chance of problems when you undergo surgery, but doing nothing might be far worse. Untreated spinal stenosis may cause a variety of issues, such as:

Feeling numb or weak

Issues with equilibrium



When Should You Be Concerned About Spinal Stenosis?

Stenosis may be dangerous if it causes you to lose movement, suffer from excruciating discomfort,  or cause you to miss work.

Numbness in your vaginal area, along with bowel or bladder control loss, is another indicator that’s regarded as severe but uncommon. Acute cauda equina syndrome is a medical emergency.

What Is Spinal Stenosis’ Long-Term Prognosis?

You can usually manage spinal stenosis with proper therapy to lessen symptoms and delay development. To maintain a high level of mobility, you may need to change your kind of physical activity and manage inflammation and discomfort.

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