Central canal stenosis — diagnosis, definition and treatment

Central canal stenosis is a degenerative spine condition that commonly affects people over the age of 50 as the spine naturally weakens with time.

The most common symptoms of central canal stenosis include pain, muscle weakness, numbness and/or tingling in the spine and in the nearest extremity. Because this is a degenerative spine condition, these symptoms will worsen over time without treatment. The first step to finding pain relief is to understand what central canal stenosis is and to schedule an appointment with your physician to confirm a diagnosis and discuss treatment options.


Central canal stenosis is the narrowing of the central canal in the spine — the passageway in the spine that holds the spinal cord and nerve roots.

Spinal stenosis can form in any area of the spine, but is most commonly found in the cervical spine (neck) or lumbar spine (lower back). This is because stenosis often develops as a result of another degenerative spine condition, such as a herniated or bulging disc, bone spur or any other condition that shifts a piece of the spine out of alignment.

The next step to find pain relief from this condition is to have your physician diagnose the cause of your central canal stenosis and review the treatment options available to you.


Since many spinal conditions present with similar symptoms, an accurate diagnosis requires a very thorough medical examination and diagnostic testing. Your physician may perform one or several of these tests to make sure he or she can accurately determine the cause of your pain:

  • Notation of a patient’s complete medical history
  • Physical exam to test for strength and reflexes
  • X-ray
  • MRI
  • CT scan
  • Bone scan
  • Blood tests


After accurate diagnosis of central canal stenosis, your doctor will develop a specific treatment plan for your condition.

For many patients, nonsurgical treatments like physical therapy and lifestyle changes can effectively reduce the symptoms of spinal stenosis. In other cases, your treatment recommendation may include surgery.

The minimally invasive outpatient procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute are often the clinically appropriate first choice over traditional open spine surgery. This is because our minimally invasive approach to the spine reduces our patients’ risk of complication and infection and significantly lowers their recovery time.^

Depending on the cause and severity of your central canal stenosis, a decompression or stabilization surgery could help address your symptoms, though many patients find that a decompression surgery is the most appropriate treatment choice, unless severe damage has occurred in the spine. Both procedures are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery and have been used to help more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck or back pain.

To take the next step on your journey to pain relief, contact Laser Spine Institute today and request a review of your MRI or CT scan.