Canal stenosis – causes and treatments

Get answers to canal stenosis causes using Laser Spine Institute's helpful guide.

Canal stenosis and its underlying causes can produce a number of uncomfortable symptoms. Many patients with canal stenosis experience pain in the neck or back, as well as traveling pain, numbness, tingling and weakness in other parts of the body.

Depending on the exact location of your stenosis, you may experience these symptoms in the neck, shoulders and arms, or the lower back, hips and legs. It’s also possible, that you experience no symptoms of canal stenosis, depending on its causes and severity.

Common canal stenosis causes

When a part of the spinal anatomy — such as a disc, vertebra or facet joint — becomes inflamed or shifted out of place, it results in a narrowing, or stenosis, of the spinal canal, which is the central passageway that houses the spinal cord.

A number of degenerative spinal conditions may also cause spinal stenosis, including herniated discs, spondylolisthesis, osteoarthritis, bone spurs and degenerative disc disease. Many of these conditions occur as a result of the natural aging process, making them more common in patients over the age of 30. As we age, our spinal discs dehydrate and weaken, and they become more likely to shift out of place.

Central canal stenosis may also occur at birth. Congenital spinal stenosis may predispose a person to the symptoms of age-related canal stenosis.


Most physicians will begin treatment of canal stenosis symptoms with conservative therapies. These treatments allow many patients to find relief from their symptoms within a few weeks, though some require more or less time. The following conservative treatments may either be prescribed individually or in conjunction with one another:

  • Pain medications (over-the-counter or prescription strength)
  • Bed rest
  • Hot and/or cold compresses
  • Weight loss
  • Moderate exercise
  • Physical therapy

Be sure to consult a physician or pharmacist before beginning any diet, exercise regimen or over-the-counter pain medication. Care should always be taken to reduce the risk for further complications and drug interactions.

Minimally invasive procedures treat the causes of canal stenosis

While conservative treatments are beneficial to many patients, some may require surgery to treat canal stenosis. If you experience continued pain associated with canal stenosis, we encourage you to look at all your surgical options, including minimally invasive spine surgery.

Minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures, such as those offered by Laser Spine Institute, are often the clinically appropriate first choice over traditional open spine surgery to treat degenerative spine conditions. Our surgeons use a small incision to treat the source of your canal stenosis, without unnecessary muscle tearing and scar tissue.

Contact to find out if you’re a candidate for our minimally invasive outpatient procedures and for your no-cost MRI review.*