By Dr Tony Setiobudi BMedSci, MBBS, MRCS, MMed (Ortho), FRCS (Ortho)
Mdm Tan is a 57 year old. She complains of calf and thigh cramping after walking for 5 minutes. The cramping feeling disappears when she is sitting. She has no symptom at rest.
Spinal stenosis occurs because of wear and tear in the spine. The spinal canal gradually becomes narrower and narrower with age. As a result the nerves can get compressed and irritated.
The symptom is cramping feeling in the calf or thigh when walking and is relieved by sitting. Because the wear and tear continues with time, the walking distance gradually becomes shorter. This can interfere with the daily activities.
The diagnosis of spinal stenosis is confirmed with MRI scan. From the scan, we can see how severe the narrowing is and which level of the spine is involved.
The treatment depends on the severity of the problem and how this condition affect the patient’s life. Mild form of spinal stenosis can be treated with medication and activity modification. Severe form of spinal stenosis is treated with surgery to free up the nerve (nerve decompression). Surgery is an effective treatment for severe spinal stenosis. After the surgery, the patient can walk further. The leg cramping when walking will become significantly better as well as the quality of life.
Dr Tony Setiobudi is an Orthopaedic & Spine Surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospital (Orchard), Singapore. He treats bone, joint, muscle and ligament problems in adults and children. He has a special interest in nerve compression and spine problems such as back & neck pain, scoliosis, kyphosis, spine tumor & infection, spinal cord injury, osteoporosis fracture, spinal stenosis and slipped disc.