How aging causes spinal narrowing

One of the most common spinal narrowing causes is the natural aging process. As we grow older, the parts of the spine naturally begin to deteriorate, which makes them less able to withstand the stresses of everyday movement. However, for some people, this spinal deterioration advances and can cause spinal narrowing (or stenosis) to develop if displaced anatomy constricts the nerve passages in the spinal column. When this happens, a variety of uncomfortable symptoms can develop that can affect your quality of life and ability to perform everyday activities. The following information can make you a more informed patient, which can help you develop an effective treatment plan with your doctor if this condition is affecting your life.

Age-related conditions that cause spinal narrowing

The spine is constructed to protect the central nervous system and support the upper body while still allowing for range of motion. Like the rest of the body, the individual parts that make up the spine degenerate over time. The joints and discs that allow for smooth motion lose water content, making them more brittle and less elastic. These natural changes can lead to the following conditions that are often the underlying cause of spinal narrowing:

  • Degenerative disc disease. When the discs weaken and become dehydrated as a result of aging, they can lose height, bulge out or even rupture. Spinal narrowing is often caused by bulging or herniated disc material pushing into the spinal canal or one of the nerve root exits. This can result in nerve compression and the development of debilitating symptoms.
  • Spinal osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is quite common in the facet joints that connect adjacent vertebrae. The inflammation and friction can lead to the formation of bone spurs, which can constrict and narrow spinal nerves.

Upon diagnosing an age-related condition as the source of spinal narrowing, doctors will typically recommend conservative treatments to manage pain and improve mobility. Common options include periods of rest, medication, physical therapy, epidural steroid injections and massage treatment.

Surgery to treat spinal narrowing

Surgery can become an option if weeks or months of conservative therapy do not bring the relief required for an active lifestyle. As an alternative to traditional open spine surgery, Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive spine surgery performed on an outpatient basis. Our surgeons can access the spine with a less than 1-inch incision and other muscle-sparing techniques, which means a lower complication rate and a shorter recovery time^ compared to traditional open spine procedures.

If you’d like to learn more, contact our dedicated team today. We offer a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.