Canal stenosis symptoms and causes

Canal stenosis is a condition in which the opening where the spinal cord passes through, called the spinal canal, becomes narrow. Because the spine is a complex system with many different bones, nerves and muscles all working together, the symptoms and causes of canal stenosis can vary greatly depending on the location where this condition occurs.

Canal stenosis symptoms

Canal stenosis may not produce any symptoms at all if the narrowing does not directly interfere with the spinal cord or its nerve roots. However, if the condition progresses and begins to compress a nerve root or the spinal cord, symptoms may begin to appear either intermittently or constantly and may worsen over time. In addition to back pain in the area of the spine that has narrowed, symptoms include pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness in the extremities.

The exact location of these symptoms will depend on where the narrowing is happening. Narrowing that affects a nerve root in the cervical (upper) spine may result in symptoms that affect the shoulders and one of the arms. More commonly, though, narrowing occurs in the lower (lumbar) spine and affects a nerve root that travels down through one of the legs. In some cases, the spinal cord itself is compressed, rather than one of the nerve roots branching out of it, and symptoms are generalized throughout the entire body.

Canal stenosis causes

If you experience symptoms that may be related to canal stenosis or another spinal condition, it’s important to see your physician to get an accurate diagnosis. You may be wondering how you got this condition in the first place, and in fact, there are many different underlying causes of canal stenosis. Some of the most common causes include:

  • A herniated or bulging disc — a disc between the vertebrae that tears or bulges in one area
  • Spondylolisthesis — a vertebra that has slipped out of place
  • Bone spurs — small growths of bone on the vertebrae that may happen naturally as we age
  • Ligament or joint hypertrophy — enlarging of the ligaments or joints of the spine
  • Trauma — damage to the spine such as from a car accident, sports injury or another incident
  • Spinal tumors — a tumor whose growth may interfere with the spinal cord or displace vertebrae
  • Paget’s disease — a chronic bone disorder that causes excessive bone growth
  • Ankylosing spondylitis — a form of spinal arthritis

In addition there are several congenital (inherited) conditions that may cause abnormal bone growth in the spine and lead to spinal narrowing.

How Laser Spine Institute can help

If you’ve been diagnosed with canal stenosis, your physician will likely recommend one or more conservative treatments, such as over-the-counter pain relievers, hot and cold compresses and corticosteroid injections. For many people, these options provide the relief they need. However, when symptoms persist or continue to worsen, surgery may be necessary.

Laser Spine Institute is a leader in minimally invasive spine surgery and has helped more than 60,000 patients find relief from pain caused by canal stenosis and other spinal conditions. Contact us today for a no-cost MRI review* that will help determine if you’re a candidate for minimally invasive surgery at Laser Spine Institute.