Spinal stenosis risk factors are better understood once you know the definition of the condition. “Stenosis” is a medical term, derived from ancient Greek, meaning “narrowing.” It can be used to refer to any tubular structure within the body, including a blood vessel or a bronchial tube, which is vulnerable to losing its shape or becoming blocked. Spinal stenosis refers to a narrowing of the spinal canal, the passageway for the spinal cord, and the foramina, which are holes along the spine through which the nerve roots pass.
Causes and symptoms
Spinal stenosis can be caused by a birth defect, injury or a degenerative condition associated with the aging process, such as osteoarthritis. It can occur at any level of the spine, although it is most common in the cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) areas because of the relative flexibility and weight-bearing functions of those regions. Spinal stenosis does not always produce symptoms, but if the spinal cord or nerve roots become compressed or irritated because of diminished space, then traveling symptoms like pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness can occur. Spinal stenosis risk factors include:
- Age – people 50 or older are more likely to develop stenosis of the spine
- Genetics – inherited traits can make certain people more vulnerable to stenosis
- Smoking – ingredients in cigarettes can constrict blood vessels and other passageways in the body
- Injury history – a spinal injury experienced early in life can affect spinal stability later on
- Obesity – excess body weight places more stress on the spine, which can lead to instability
Treating spinal stenosis symptoms
Symptoms associated with spinal stenosis normally can be managed conservatively, using pain medication, physical therapy or other non-operative methods. However, when chronic pain or discomfort persists after weeks or months of conservative treatment, a physician might recommend surgery as an option. Rather than settle on highly invasive traditional back surgery, tens of thousands of patients have found relief from spinal stenosis at Laser Spine Institute. Contact us today to learn about our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures that are performed using advanced techniques.