What causes spinal narrowing?
The narrowing of the spinal canal, also known as spinal stenosis, is one of the most common spine conditions. The central spinal canal is a tunnel that runs down the spinal column, allowing the spinal cord to travel from the brain to the rest of the body by branching off through small openings between the vertebrae. Narrowing in the spine can occur if anatomy becomes displaced and constricts any of these already tight nerve pathways, causing potentially painful nerve compression.
In order for your physician to diagnose spinal stenosis, or the narrowing of your spinal cord, you will need to undergo a physical examination that may also include imaging tests, such as an X-ray, MRI or CT scan. These images will allow your physician to determine the cause of your pain and the severity of your spinal stenosis. Once these factors are determined, you can collaborate to find a treatment option to help relieve your pain.
Causes of spinal stenosis
While there are many specific conditions that lead to spinal stenosis, the most common underlying cause for spinal narrowing is natural aging and normal wear of the spinal components. While this deterioration is not necessarily painful on its own, when the spinal canal or one of the nerve root exits becomes constricted to the point that it compresses the nerves they are supposed to protect, a number of painful symptoms may be experienced.
Spinal stenosis can also be caused by several common spine conditions:
- Bone spurs. Often caused by spinal arthritis, bone spurs are extra growths on the vertebrae that can cause spinal narrowing.
- Herniated discs. If a disc between the vertebrae becomes herniated, displaced disc material can narrow the spinal column.
- Injury. Injuries and car accidents may cause the vertebrae to fracture or move out of place, causing the space between the spinal canal and the spinal cord to become smaller.
- Degenerative disc disease. Natural breakdown of the spinal discs can lead to decreased space between the vertebrae, which narrows the spinal column.
The best way to address spinal stenosis is to receive a diagnosis for any symptoms you are experiencing from a physician who can perform a physical examination and order diagnostic imagery, such as an MRI. Once a cause is identified, you can collaborate to find a treatment option that works best for you. Conservative treatments, such as physical therapy and medication, are often effective spinal stenosis treatments, but surgery can also become an option in severe cases that do not improve after weeks or months. For patients in this situation, Laser Spine Institute provides minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery that offers no lengthy recovery and less risk of complication compared to traditional open spine procedures.^