What is canal stenosis surgery and is it the right treatment option for me?

By Michael Perry, M.D.

More often than not, if you’ve been recommended for spinal canal stenosis surgery, it means you have already exhausted conservative treatment options and still have not found relief from your symptoms. Your doctor may have recommended spine surgery as a last resort to treat the symptoms of your spinal stenosis. Before you choose to undergo canal stenosis surgery, you should research the different types of surgery available and what is involved during each procedure so you can make an informed decision about your spine care.

The goal of spinal canal stenosis surgery is to increase room within the spinal canal, thereby alleviating nerve compression. Spinal stenosis, also known as spinal narrowing and canal stenosis, is a condition wherein the spinal canal gradually narrows, eventually compressing the spinal cord or one of the nearby spinal nerves. This condition could be caused by a variety of degeneration within the spine, such as disc herniation, severely enlarged facet joints or ligaments, the development of bone spurs, etc. When spinal degeneration causes these conditions to form, they can protrude into the spinal canal and narrow the available space for the nerve roots and spinal cord to travel.

What causes spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is most frequently experienced in the cervical and lumbar spine segments, the neck and lower back, respectively. These sections of the spine are extremely mobile and flexible and also support significant weight loads. Weight overload exaggerates wear and tear, and is one of the reasons neck and lower back pain is so common. Some types of spinal deterioration that lead to spinal stenosis include:

  • Degenerative disc disease — the degeneration of spinal discs can lead to disc material extruding into the spinal canal
  • Osteoarthritis — inflamed joint tissue can enlarge, constricting the spinal canal
  • Osteophytes — the development of bone spurs often leads to nerve compression
  • Injury – injured or swollen tissue can constrict the spinal canal
  • Spondylolisthesis — the misalignment of a vertebra restricts spinal canal space

Treatments: conservative and surgical

The decision to undergo spinal canal stenosis surgery is typically made after you’ve tried several months of conservative treatments and they have proven ineffective. In most cases, spine specialists first attempt to treat the symptoms of stenosis with anti-inflammatory medications, heat therapy and exercises. As stenosis is usually the result of years of wear and tear, conservative treatments often do not provide the permanent relief you desire because the cause of the symptoms remains. Spinal canal stenosis surgery allows an orthopedist to widen the spinal canal, thereby removing the source of stenosis.

At Laser Spine Institute, our minimally invasive spine surgery is an alternative to traditional open spine surgery for the treatment of spinal stenosis. Unlike traditional open spinal canal stenosis surgery, our procedures are conducted on an outpatient basis using muscle-sparing techniques. The techniques used by Laser Spine Institute surgeons help patients avoid the lengthy recovery and rehabilitation periods required by traditional open spine surgery.^

To learn about how one of our procedures can help you, contact Laser Spine institute today and request a no-cost MRI review to find out if you may be a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery.*