Spine

Spinal stenosis growing health issue as Baby Boomers Age

By Premier Health

Few people appreciate the usefulness of their spine until it can no longer function properly.

The spine — a row of 33 bones in the back — is an incredibly useful machine, enabling someone to stand, walk and carry out daily tasks. However, the spine stops being a tool and becomes a hindrance when spinal stenosis occurs. Spinal stenosis is caused by a narrowing of the spinal canal, joints and bones surrounding the spinal cord and nerve roots. The condition causes pain and functional impairment.

Many Americans can be born with spinal stenosis, but the majority will get it as a natural part of the aging process. A person is at the greatest risk of developing spinal stenosis after they pass 50 years of age. Those who do acquire the condition experience a significant change in their quality of life, said Michael Verdon, DO, a neurosurgeon with the Clinical Neuroscience Institute.

“Symptoms can cause someone to find it difficult to write or walk for a long period of time,” Dr. Verdon said. “For example, some individuals may have to grab a shopping cart to lean on when they go into a supermarket.”

Spinal stenosis can occur at any point on a person’s spine, but the most common areas are the cervical (upper) and lumbar (lower) areas of the spine. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), the number of Americans with spinal stenosis in the lumbar area is expected to grow over the next five years as the Baby Boomers age. It is estimated that 2.4 million Americans will be affected by lumbar spinal stenosis by 2021, the AAOS said.

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