There is often a strong correlation between spinal narrowing and the aging process. As we get older, the components of our spinal anatomy begin to deteriorate. They can become inflamed, misshapen, or otherwise damaged, causing bone or soft tissue to extrude into the spinal canal, thereby narrowing the canal and reducing nerve spaces. This condition is referred to as spinal stenosis and, when spinal nerves are compressed, stenosis can cause symptoms of pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness throughout the back, neck, and extremities.
How Aging Affects the Spine
The natural degenerative process of aging contributes to spinal narrowing in the following ways:
- Intervertebral discs – over time, these spongy, cartilaginous shock absorbers lose water content, elasticity, and height; a herniated disc or bulging disc may occur.
- Vertebrae – the vertebrae can decrease in density and become brittle. It is also possible for degenerated discs to cause a vertebra to slip forward and over the vertebra beneath it, a condition referred to as spondylolisthesis.
- Facet joints – the cartilage covering these vertebral joints can deteriorate and cause bone spurs, also called osteophytes. This degenerative condition is referred to as facet disease, which is a type of arthritis of the spine.
- Ligaments – over time, unabsorbed calcium deposits can cause ligaments to harden and become larger, a process referred to as ossification.
Can Spinal Narrowing Be Treated?
Because spinal narrowing and the aging process go hand in hand, there is no cure for degenerative-related stenosis. However, there are a variety of ways that you can manage your symptoms, such as conservative treatments options like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, hot-cold compresses, restorative yoga, or low-impact exercise. If weeks or months of these treatments do not help you to achieve lasting pain relief, your doctor may suggest surgery as an option. If this is the case, contact Laser Spine Institute. We specialize in a variety of minimally invasive, outpatient procedures that offer a welcome alternative to the risks and lengthy recuperation of an open spine surgery. Contact us to receive a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan, or to learn more about our state-of-the-art endoscopic techniques.