Spinal narrowing — treatment options

By Michael Perry, M.D.

Treatment for spinal narrowing is designed to relieve pain and other symptoms caused by nerve compression in the cervical (upper), thoracic (middle) and lumbar (lower) spine segments. In most cases, treatment is first attempted conservatively with a course of nonsurgical techniques. Spine surgery is usually reserved for patients who experience debilitating pain or symptoms that persist for several weeks or months without finding relief by using conservative treatment.

Diagnosing spinal narrowing

Patients usually first learn about this condition after visiting their doctors regarding persistent symptoms like pain, tingling and mobility problems, both locally and in the upper or lower extremities. Spinal narrowing — or spinal stenosis — is often caused by a range of degenerative spine conditions most typically caused by aging or injury. Specific conditions causing this narrowing include bulging and herniated discs, as well as arthritic bone spurs.

If you or someone you know is experiencing chronic neck or back pain, schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Here’s what you can expect during an office visit:

  • A review of your medical history. Your doctor will ask you detailed questions about your symptoms, their intensity and location and try to determine the cause of the pain.
  • A physical examination. It is typical for your doctor to perform a series of tests in the office, including spine palpation, to locate the source of your discomfort.
  • Diagnostic imagery. In many cases, your doctor will recommend imagery like an X-ray, MRI or CT scan for a diagnosis of the location and cause of nerve compression.

Treatment options

Once a diagnosis of spinal stenosis is confirmed, the typical recommendation is for conservative, nonsurgical treatments that are designed to reduce nerve pain. Some examples of recommended treatments include:

Surgery is usually seen as a last-resort option for spinal stenosis because of the highly invasive nature of many surgical procedures. Traditional open spine surgery requires a large muscle-disrupting incision that leads to hospitalization and a long recovery period, among other difficulties. Minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute is an alternative to the risks and difficulties of traditional surgery because we use a less than 1-inch incision to access the spine, resulting in an outpatient procedure with a shorter recovery time^ for our patients.

In the event that conservative treatment does not provide you with the pain relief you require, contact Laser Spine Institute for a no-cost MRI review* to find out if you are a candidate for one of our procedures.