What is Spinal Narrowing?

Spinal narrowing, also known as spinal stenosis, is a condition in which the spinal canal, the space through which the spinal cord travels, becomes smaller. In many cases, spinal narrowing does not cause any symptoms because the space is still large enough to allow the spinal cord and nerve roots to pass through undisturbed. However, when the area becomes too tight, it can put pressure on the nerve roots and even the spinal cord, causing symptoms such as pain, numbness, tingling, muscle spasms, weakness and more in the neck, torso and limbs. The area in which symptoms present themselves depends on the location of the nerves that are affected.

What causes spinal narrowing?

Spinal narrowing can be caused by a number of conditions, but some of the most common include:

  • Bone spur – Often a result of cartilage degeneration, a bone spur forms as a protective structure when bone rubs on bone. Rather than being pointed, a bone spur is usually simply a raised bump on the bone, and if this bump gets large enough, it can press on a nearby nerve root or the spinal cord.
  • Ruptured disc – Healthy spinal discs consist of a tough outer layer and a soft inner layer. Usually, this soft inner layer is protected and contained by the outer layer, but if the outer layer tears, the interior can leak out, narrowing the space through which the spinal cord and/or nerve roots have to pass.
  • Bulging disc – Similar to a ruptured disc, the outer layer of a bulging disc is unable to properly contain the inner layer. However, rather than tearing completely, the outer layer simply allows the inner layer to push against it and “bulge” out in a certain area.
  • Facet joint disease – Facet disease is a condition in which the cartilage that lubricates spinal joints degenerates due to overuse, wear and tear, obesity, aging or another cause. Without cartilage, bones rub on one another, which can cause nerve irritation and bone spur growth.

To learn more

For more answers to the question, “What is spinal narrowing?” or to learn about the minimally invasive procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute, contact us today. We can provide your MRI review to determine your eligibility for one of our procedures.