What is severe central canal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is a common term in the world of spine conditions, and it refers to the narrowing of the space within the spinal canal or spinal foramen, the pathways that allow nerve roots to leave the spinal canal. That being said, what does it mean when your physician diagnoses you with severe central canal stenosis? What is severe central canal stenosis and how can it be treated?

Severe canal stenosis is the severe narrowing of the spinal canal — the hollow passageway in the spine that hosts the spinal cord and peripheral nerve roots. While the spinal canal can sometimes be narrow due to genetic predisposition, a common cause of severe canal stenosis is the development of a spine condition that takes up space in the spine and narrows empty spaces.

Conditions that can cause severe central canal stenosis

Often, central canal stenosis develops a small portion of the spine becomes damaged and causes that section of the spine to move out of alignment. As part of the spine moves out of alignment, the space within the spinal canal can begin to narrow, increasing the risk of nerve compression and symptoms.

Common spine conditions that can cause central canal stenosis include:

  • Herniated discs
  • Bulging discs
  • Bone spurs
  • Spinal arthritis (osteoarthritis)
  • Spondylolisthesis

These conditions can lead to nerve compression, which can cause painful and debilitating canal stenosis symptoms.

Canal stenosis symptoms

Canal stenosis symptoms often begin gradually as the spine condition first develops. However, as the condition worsens with time, the symptoms can turn severe, sometimes even preventing patients from performing daily activities like household chores, driving and walking.

The common symptoms of severe canal stenosis include:

  • Pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Burning sensation
  • Difficulty walking or turning head, depending on location of condition
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control — seek immediate medical attention

These symptoms can often be treated conservatively, though sometimes surgery is recommended depending on the severity of your canal stenosis.

Treatments for canal stenosis

For many patients, the symptoms of canal stenosis can be managed through a series of conservative treatments designed to relieve pressure on the pinched nerve root in the spinal canal. These conservative treatments for canal stenosis can vary depending on the cause of the spinal canal narrowing, but often include one or more of the following methods:

  • Pain medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Hot/cold compresses
  • Limited rest
  • Low-impact exercises
  • Weight loss, when necessary
  • Behavioral modification
  • Corticosteroid injections

These treatments often take several months before significant relief can be measured. If you are still suffering from symptoms of canal stenosis, your physician may recommend that you consider spine surgery.

At Laser Spine institute, our minimally invasive spine surgery is an alternative to traditional open spine procedures, offering a shorter recovery time and less scarring.^ To date, our procedures have helped more than 60,000 patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain. Find out if you’re a candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures by contacting us today and requesting a no-cost MRI review* from our team.