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A degenerative spinal disorder that leads to narrowing of the spinal canal. It can occur in the neck or lower back area and leads to pressure on the spinal nerves or spinal cord. Initially the cause can be trauma whose effects are felt only in the middle life or old age, producing symptoms chiefly in those between the ages of 50 and 60. Degeneration of the nucleus of the intervertebral disk and the surrounding fibrous tissue leads to a reaction of the adjacent areas of vertebrae. Variable calcified outgrowths from a vertebra may then protrude to press on the spinal cord or occlude a spinal nerve’s exit from the cord and so cause considerable neurological discomfort. This slow progression of disk degeneration followed by bony overgrowth of the vertebrae may take place over many years and be the result of former sporting injuries, whiplash, or trauma.

Commonly pain is the initial symptom, with some loss of comfortable spinal movement. Muscle weakness may occur in the specific areas supplied by the spinal nerves and, where spinal cord compression occurs, sensory deprivation over wide areas of the body (below the affected level) is experienced.

Diagnosis is by X-ray examination of the spine and by myelography. Treatment consists primarily of rest by immobilization of the affected area of the spine in a plaster or plastic jacket or collar. Surgery to relieve compression may be necessary in cases where pain or paralysis is severe.

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