How does spinal stenosis cause back pain?

Spinal stenosis in the back can lead to painful symptoms depending on the location of this condition. Stenosis means narrowing, and in the spine this refers to the gradual narrowing of the spinal canal or other nerve pathways. This is usually caused by an underlying spine condition, such as osteoarthritis or a bulging or herniated disc. Spinal stenosis isn’t always symptomatic, but can become painful and debilitating if enough pressure is put on spinal nerves to disrupt their functioning.

If you are suffering from spinal stenosis in your back, learning more about this condition can be an important step in your treatment. This knowledge can help you work better with your doctor in getting the help you need to find lasting relief.

The spinal canal and foramina

The spinal canal is formed by arches on the back of the vertebrae and protects the spinal cord as it sends sensory information between the brain and the body. Nerve roots exit the spinal canal through openings between the vertebrae called foramina. Spinal stenosis in the back can occur when displaced anatomy, such as a bone spur or herniated disc material, constricts the space in one of these passages and interferes with the regular function of a spinal nerve. This condition is particularly common in the lumbar (lower) region spine, where the combination of weight-bearing responsibility and flexibility puts a high amount of stress on spinal anatomy.

Symptoms of spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis in the back can cause a number of symptoms depending on the affected nerve. Common symptoms include:

  • Severe lower back pain
  • Numbness and tingling in the feet and toes
  • Traveling pain
  • Muscle weakness

One of the most common conditions associated with spinal stenosis in the lower back is sciatica, which is the compression of the sciatic nerve in the lumbar spine. This nerve travels all the way down the lower body, from the hips and buttocks to the toes, and can cause leg pain, cramping and spasms in addition to the symptoms listed above.

Spinal stenosis treatment

For patients with spinal stenosis in the back, treatment is normally first attempted conservatively with a course of techniques such as rest, low-impact exercise, medication, physical therapy and massage. In the event that these treatments are not effective, spinal stenosis surgery might be recommended. If you have been recommended for a traditional open back procedure but have concerns about the large incision, hospitalization, risk of complication and lengthy recovery involved, reach out to Laser Spine Institute today. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is performed on an outpatient basis with a less than 1-inch incision, sparing supporting muscles and helping patients enjoy a shorter recovery time compared to traditional procedures.^

Our spine experts will be happy to review your MRI or CT scan, at no cost to you,* in order to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.

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