Spinal narrowing: underlying causes and treatment methods

Spinal narrowing, also known as spinal stenosis, is a condition in which nerve pathways in the spine become constricted. This can produce a number of uncomfortable symptoms, including localized pain in the neck or back, radiating pain that travels along the affected nerve, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness. This condition has many underlying causes, so if you are experiencing discomfort and seeking treatment for your pain, you should visit your doctor for a proper diagnosis and care plan. The following information can help you work more closely with your doctor in your search for lasting relief.

Spinal narrowing causes

One of the most common causes of spinal narrowing is the natural aging process. Age-related changes to spinal anatomy combined with the stresses of everyday movement can result in several spine conditions that cause the spinal canal to narrow, such as:

  • Herniated and/or bulging discs
  • Bone spurs
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Joint hypertrophy (enlargement)
  • Ligament hypertrophy

In addition to age-related degeneration, factors like traumatic injury, being overweight or obese, having poor posture and using tobacco products can all contribute to spinal narrowing.

Spinal narrowing treatment

Patients who have been diagnosed with spinal narrowing can consult with their doctor to come up with a nonsurgical treatment plan that will best meet their needs and help to relieve their painful symptoms. Some of these conservative options include:

  • Over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen.
  • Combining heat therapy and cold compression therapy, which helps to address inflammation and pain associated with a compressed spinal cord or nerve root.
  • Low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, yoga, Pilates and light stretching can help patients strengthen supporting muscles and improve range of motion, among other benefits.

Surgery can become an option if weeks or months of conservative treatments don’t relieve chronic pain and mobility problems. Many patients are hesitant to undergo surgery due to the difficulties involved with traditional open spine procedures, including overnight hospitalization and a long recovery period. The minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute is an alternative, offering patients a streamlined outpatient experience with no lengthy recovery.^

If you’re considering surgery to treat spinal narrowing and want to find out if you’re a potential candidate for one of our procedures, reach out to Laser Spine Institute today for a no-cost MRI review.*