Spinal narrowing symptoms and causes

To identify and understand the symptoms and causes of spinal narrowing, you must first find out what this condition is and the effects it can have on your spinal health.

Spinal narrowing — also known as spinal stenosis — is the reduction of space within the spinal canal, which contains the spinal cord and its nerve roots. It occurs when either soft tissue or bone encroaches on the spinal canal because of a degenerative spine condition. Spinal stenosis is one of the most common spinal conditions in people over the age of 50, though many of those who have this condition won’t experience symptoms if the spinal cord or spinal nerve roots aren’t affected.

The symptoms of spinal narrowing

The symptoms associated with spinal narrowing can vary depending on the specific condition that is causing the narrowing. Additionally, the location of the symptoms depends on the area of the spine that has been affected.

Most cases of spinal stenosis occur in the neck (cervical spine) and lower back (lumbar spine) and the symptoms can include localized pain, pain that radiates along an affected nerve, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness. If the cervical spine is affected, symptoms may be felt in the head, neck, shoulders, arms and hands, while lumbar spinal stenosis often produces symptoms in the lower back, buttocks, legs and feet. Spinal narrowing is less common in the middle back (thoracic spine) because the level of stress on this area of the spine is much lower.

Spinal narrowing causes

There are many conditions that can be considered spinal narrowing causes, and several of them are the result of aging. The spine usually begins to deteriorate following many years of wear and stress, which can result in conditions such as:

  • Bone spurs formed because of osteoarthritis
  • Bulging or herniated discs
  • Adult scoliosis
  • Spondylolisthesis

Additionally, the chances of spinal narrowing can be increased by other risk factors including injuries, tumors, obesity, heavy tobacco use or a genetic predisposition to an abnormally narrow spine.

Patients who experience the symptoms of spinal narrowing should consult their physician, who will likely suggest conservative treatment options such as stretching, exercise and over-the-counter pain medications. Prescription medications, physical therapy and steroid injections could also be considered if symptoms persist. If several weeks of conservative treatments have not produced the symptom reductions you desire, you may need to consider surgery in order to return to your normal quality of life.

At Laser Spine Institute, our outpatient surgeries result in a shorter recovery time^ compared to traditional open spine surgery. If you would like to find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute today.