One of the most common terms used in health care related to spine conditions is spinal stenosis. Patients often turn to Laser Spine Institute already knowing what their condition is and many times have extensively researched spinal stenosis prior to contacting one of our spine centers. Many of those who turn to Laser Spine Institute do so for a complimentary medical consultation or because they are told open back surgery is their only way out. Read how patients from all over the world have turned to Laser Spine Institute and found relief for spinal stenosis through our safe and effective procedures Patient Testimonials.
What is Spinal Stenosis
Understanding spinal stenosis conditions begins with the definition of spinal stenosis. Stenosis is a Greek word that means “narrowing or constricting space”. Spinal stenosis occurs in the spinal column where the spinal cord, nerve roots and vertebrae are located. Simply stated, spinal stenosis is the constricting or narrowing of the spinal canal.
Types of Spinal Stenosis
There are two types of spinal stenosis that Laser Spine Institute treats which affect the human spine; they are lumbar spinal stenosis and cervical spinal stenosis. The lumbar region is the lower part of the spine and is the most common area where spinal stenosis occurs. Cervical spinal stenosis resides in the neck region of the spine. While different in name and location both types of spinal stenosis affect the body in a similar manner.
Components of the Spine
The spine is a very complex system made up of many different parts that all come together to allow humans to walk upright, bend and twist. In addition, the components of the spine protect the spinal cord from injury like a cylinder of armor.
Anatomical components of the spine that cause spinal stenosis
- Intervertebral disks—pads of cartilage filled with a gel-like substance which lie between vertebrae and act as shock absorbers.
- Facet joints—joints located on the back of the main part of the vertebra. They are formed by a portion of one vertebra and the vertebra above it. They connect the vertebrae to each other and permit backward motion.
- Intervertebral foramen (also called neural foramen)—an opening between vertebrae through which nerves leave the spine and extend to other parts of the body. See foraminal stenosis
- Lamina—part of the vertebra at the back portion of the vertebral arch that forms the roof of the canal through which the spinal cord and nerve roots pass.
- Ligaments—elastic bands of tissue that support the spine by preventing the vertebrae from slipping out of line as the spine moves. A large ligament often involved in spinal stenosis is the ligamentum flavum, which runs as a continuous band from lamina to lamina in the spine.
- Pedicles—narrow stem-like structures on the vertebrae that form the walls of the front part of the vertebral arch.
- Spinal cord/nerve roots—a major part of the central nervous system that extends from the base of the brain down to the lower back and that is encased by the vertebral column. It consists of nerve cells and bundles of nerves. The cord connects the brain to all parts of the body via 31 pairs of nerves that branch out from the cord and leave the spine between vertebrae.
- Synovium—a thin membrane that produces fluid to lubricate the facet joints, allowing them to move easily.
- Vertebral arch—a circle of bone around the canal through which the spinal cord passes. It is composed of a floor at the back of the vertebra, walls (the pedicles), and a ceiling where two laminae join.
- Cauda equina—a sack of nerve roots that continues from the lumbar region, where the spinal cord ends, and continues down to provide neurologic function to the lower part of the body. It resembles a “horse’s tail” (cauda equina in Latin).
Reference NIAMS – National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disorders
Who gets spinal stenosis
Spinal stenosis is either acquired or inherited. Those who inherit spinal stenosis, by nature, have a small spinal canal. On the other hand, when spinal stenosis is acquired, in most cases it begins slowly and develops over years. As time passes the space between the nerve roots, spinal cord and vertebrae is reduced. Typically, the narrowing of the spinal canal is a result of abnormal bone or tissue growth (sometimes both). Please see our causes page for more details.
Examples of “Narrowing” include:
- Ligaments which connect the spine become larger
- Discs between vertebrae and bones are forced back against the spinal cord
- Bone spurs or osteophytes grow on vertebrae and push on the spinal cord or nerve roots causing irritation
Figure 1 is a top section view of a normal spinal canal, notice the space difference in the spinal canal in
Figure 2. As the space gets tighter nerves and the spinal cord are affected.
When spinal stenosis occurs nerves that branch out from the spine and sometimes even the spinal cord itself is squeezed which can irritate the nervous system. Once this happens spinal stenosis sufferers may feel pain, numbness or weakness in various parts of the body depending on the location of spinal stenosis. See cervical spinal stenosis for neck and lumbar spinal stenosis for lower back.
How Laser Spine Institute can help spinal stenosis conditions
If you think you show signs of spinal stenosis conditions, or would like to confirm your suspicions that you may have spinal stenosis, we recommend any of the following:
- Contact Laser Spine Institute to speak to one of our spine condition specialists about spinal stenosis.
- Receive a free second opinion about your condition.
- Send Laser Spine Institute your MRI or CT Scan for a complimentary review by one of our Doctors.
- Visit our symptoms, diagnosis, conditions and treatments pages for more information on lumbar or cervical spinal stenosis
- Click Here to see how our streamlined process can help you get your life back in less than a week.
How you can protect yourself from Spinal Stenosis
As with many other spine conditions, good common sense can go a long way in preventing spinal stenosis:
- An active lifestyle
- Healthy Diet
- Good posture
Regular exercise, swimming, yoga and pilates help develop core strength to maintain strength and flexibility in the components that make up your spine. That matched with a healthy diet, ideal weight, and proper nourishment are key to maintaining a healthy spine. In addition appropriate sleeping conditions, good posture and lifting mechanics help avoid and reduce spine related injuries.
Safe practices at home and the workplace can help you avoid injuries of all kinds. When it comes to injuries to your back, there are certain activities you should try and avoid or take precautions against. Visit our section on the causes of spinal stenosis to learn more about how to avoid developing this painful condition.
If it has been determined that you have spinal stenosis, and you are tired of living in pain, we strongly recommend that you visit our page on the treatment of spinal stenosis to see how our minimally invasive procedure can help you get your life back.
If you still have questions, you can visit our FAQ page where we answer some of the most frequently asked questions received from visitors to our website. If you still have questions after going through the FAQ and need to find out more about your condition, or how we can help you, please feel free to contact us.
The most commonly referred to types of this condition are: lumbar spinal stenosis, occurring in the lower back, and cervical spinal stenosis which occurs in the neck. As mentioned previously, the condition more commonly occurs in the lower back.
If you think you show signs of the condition, or would like to confirm your suspicions that you may have spinal stenosis, we recommend visiting our symptoms page. Here you can see if you have one or more of the common symptoms shared by most people with the condition.