Spinal stenosis and arthritis of the spine — how these conditions are related

Spinal stenosis describes the narrowing of the spinal canal or other nerve passages in the spine. This occurrence is generally caused by displaced anatomy that leads to constriction of spinal nerves. While many people have this condition to a mild degree, few recognize it because the narrowing alone does not cause symptoms. However, if this process continues and compresses a spinal nerve, pain and symptoms will likely result.

If you are experiencing symptoms of pain and limited mobility, you should consult your doctor to determine the cause of your spinal stenosis and the treatment options available to you. Many patients who have arthritis of the spine that has caused spinal stenosis can find relief from nonsurgical treatments, though some cases may require surgery.

Spinal stenosis caused by arthritis

One of the most common causes of spinal stenosis is arthritis of the spine. Osteoarthritis is a common condition in patients over the age of 50 and typically occurs with the natural aging process of the spine.

As the spine endures years of repetitive motions and movements, the vertebrae continually compress and wear against the facet joints that link them together. This causes the facet joints to slowly deteriorate, inviting the onset of spinal arthritis in the joints. Osteoarthritis in the facet joints can result in inflammation and the development of bone spurs — calcified protrusions formed on the side of the facet joints or vertebrae.

A bone spur itself does not hurt or result in symptoms. However, a bone spur can continue to grow and cause the constriction that leads to spinal stenosis. As this occurs, a nerve in the spinal canal may be impacted by the bone spur and cause radiating pain and other symptoms.

Symptoms of spinal stenosis include pain, numbness, tingling and weakness that radiates along the course of the pinched nerve. Spinal arthritis creates localized symptoms in the area of its inflammation. These symptoms include:

  • Throbbing and tenderness
  • Limited range of motion caused by pain with movement
  • Diminished flexibility
  • Abnormal stiffness in joints

Treatment for spinal stenosis and arthritis

Because spinal stenosis and osteoarthritis are often degenerative spine conditions, the symptoms often develop slowly and mildly. For many patients with mild symptoms, conservative treatments such as chiropractic care, yoga and stretches will provide effective pain relief. The purpose of most conservative treatments for spinal arthritis and spinal stenosis is to stretch the spine and relieve pressure on the vertebrae and joints. This will allow the facet joints to heal and will help prevent the development and progression of bone spurs.

While conservative treatments are effective for mild forms of these two conditions, more moderate to severe forms may require a surgical treatment to reduce pain and symptoms. If you have already tried several forms of conservative treatment and you are still suffering from chronic pain, we encourage you to research the minimally invasive treatments available at Laser Spine Institute.

Minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute

We understand that the thought of spine surgery can be overwhelming. That is why we offer a safer and effective treatment option compared to traditional open back surgery.^ By using muscle-sparing techniques our surgeons can perform our procedures on an outpatient basis at our state-of-the-art outpatient centers across the United States.

For more information about the advantages of our minimally invasive surgery or about the treatment options available for spinal stenosis and spinal arthritis, please contact our team at Laser Spine Institute today. We are pleased to offer a no-cost MRI review* so you can determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures.