The causes of spinal stenosis vary from person to person, but typically, spinal stenosis is either a congenital disorder (present at birth) or it can be acquired later on in life. Most often, spinal stenosis happens as a result of the aging process, as years of wear and tear can take their toll on the structural integrity of the spine. In fact, the most common cause of spinal stenosis is osteoarthritis – a disease most prevalent in people over 50.
Since spinal stenosis is characterized by a narrowing of the spinal canal, it can occur as a result of any tissue, bone matter or disc material entering the spinal canal and placing pressure on the spinal cord.
Examples of the most common spinal stenosis causes include:
- Normal deterioration due to aging
- Bone spurs (osteophytes)
- Bulging discs
- Herniated discs
- Injury or trauma to the spine
For a more in-depth look at spinal stenosis causes, the following information shows how certain conditions can restrict space in the spinal canal and result in the spinal stenosis symptoms you’re feeling:
- Aging – With age, the body’s ligaments (tough, connective tissues between the bones in the spine) can thicken. Bone spurs (small growths) may develop on the vertebrae and grow into the spinal canal. The cushioning discs between the vertebrae may begin to deteriorate. The facet joints (flat surfaces on each vertebra that form the spinal column) also may begin to thicken. Aging, coupled with secondary changes, is the most common cause of spinal stenosis.
- Heredity – If the spinal canal is too small at birth, symptoms of spinal stenosis may show in a relatively young person. Structural deformities of the involved vertebrae can cause narrowing of the spinal canal.
- Tumors of the spine – Abnormal growths of soft tissue that may affect the spinal canal directly by inflammation or by growth of tissue into the canal. Tissue growth may lead to bone resorption (bone loss due to over-activity of certain bone cells) or displacement of bone and the eventual collapse of the supporting framework of the spinal column.
- Trauma – Accidents and injuries may either dislocate the spine and the spinal canal or cause burst fractures, thereby producing fragments of bone that penetrate the canal.
- Paget’s disease of bone – This chronic (long-term) disorder usually results in enlarged and deformed bones. The disease can affect any bone of the body, but it is often found in the spine.
- Fluorosis – An excessive level of fluoride in the body. It may result from chronic inhalation of industrial dusts or gases contaminated with fluorides, prolonged ingestion of water containing large amounts of fluorides, or accidental ingestion of fluoride-containing insecticides. The condition may lead to calcified spinal ligaments or softened bones and to degenerative conditions like spinal stenosis.
Though you can’t always prevent it, being aware of the causes of spinal stenosis and practicing certain preventive measures to keep your spine healthy and decrease your chances of experiencing complications may include:
- Exercising and stretching regularly
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Using proper posture and lifting techniques
- Using correct body mechanics when sleeping and driving
If you have been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, chances are your symptoms can be alleviated with conservative spinal stenosis treatments like rest, pain medication, anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy and more. Surgery may be recommended, but only for patients who experience severe and limiting pain and have tried other conservative treatments without success.
If you’re considering surgery as a treatment option for symptoms of spinal stenosis, the good news is that Laser Spine Institute offers a minimally invasive alternative to traditional open back surgery. Our procedures are different from open back surgeries because they are performed in an outpatient setting, instead of requiring hospitalization and heavy sedation. In addition, our procedures use small incisions, so the postoperative pain and recovery time is far shorter than that of open back surgery.
If you’d like more information on minimally invasive procedures at Laser Spine Institute, contact us today. We can review your MRI or CT scan for free.