Overview of spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a degenerative spine condition in which the spinal canal becomes narrower and may apply pressure on spinal nerve roots or the spinal cord. The condition is related to the aging process, and like the effects of aging in other areas of the body, spinal stenosis usually begins gradually and progresses over time.

Many people fail to notice the symptoms of spinal stenosis or attribute them to getting older until symptoms become more severe. However, if left untreated, the pain of spinal stenosis can often become almost unbearable. To learn about the symptoms of spinal stenosis, how this condition is diagnosed and methods to easing your pain and discomfort, read the following article.

What are the symptoms of spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is a compressive disorder, which means that it causes chronic pain and other symptoms by compressing nerve roots and/or the spinal cord. The symptoms of spinal stenosis vary based on which part or parts of the spine are affected. For example, if spinal stenosis is in the cervical (neck) region, you might experience:

  • Pain, weakness, numbness or tingling in the shoulders, arms and hands
  • Pain in the neck or shoulders
  • Loss of function
  • Trouble holding onto things
  • Difficulty walking if the spinal cord is compressed

If spinal stenosis is in the lumbar (lower back) region, nerve compression may cause pain or cramping while walking or with prolonged standing. Spinal stenosis in a different lumbar region may also cause limping while walking due to pain or muscle weakness. It must be noted that not all areas may compress the same way. One nerve may be compressed to a greater degree than another, resulting in a variability of symptoms in different areas or sides of the body.

How is spinal stenosis diagnosed?

If you suspect that your neck or back pain is caused by spinal stenosis, see your doctor for testing and a proper diagnosis. Spinal stenosis may be mimicked by or exist in conjunction with other conditions, such as herniated discs, arthritis of the spine or bulging discs. Your doctor will be able to order diagnostic tests like an MRI, X-ray or CT scan to help rule out other conditions and help you discover whether spinal stenosis is the cause of your pain.

What are the treatments for spinal stenosis?

If you are diagnosed with spinal stenosis, you and your doctor likely will work together to develop a nonsurgical treatment regimen. Treatment options can include improving your posture while walking or standing to help create more space in the spinal region. Physical therapy, prescription or over-the-counter pain medication, cortisone injections, gentle stretching, low-impact exercise and heat therapy may also be helpful to alleviate your condition. It’s always important to consult your doctor before starting any new form of treatment.

However, not all patients will find relief through these conservative therapies. If your pain from spinal stenosis worsens or becomes chronic after several weeks or months, spinal surgery may be prescribed. If this is the case, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive spine surgery. Our minimally invasive decompression, and in severe cases, stabilization procedures, are performed on an outpatient basis and are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.^

Laser Spine Institute is the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery and has helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck or back pain. Through the use of a small incision that spares the muscles and ligaments surrounding the spine, our highly skilled surgeons are able to remove the weakened disc that is causing spaces within the spinal canal to narrow in order to relieve your symptoms. To find out if you are a candidate for our outpatient procedures, reach out to our dedicated team today and ask for a free MRI review.*