What is spinal narrowing? A guide to causes and treatment

Spinal narrowing, also known as spinal stenosis, is a condition in which the spinal canal or one of the other nerve passages in the spinal column becomes constricted. In many cases, spinal narrowing causes little or no symptoms because the space within the spinal canal 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 a nerve root or the spinal cord, causing symptoms such as pain, numbness, tingling, muscle spasms and weakness in the neck, back and limbs.

If you have been diagnosed with this condition and these symptoms are disrupting your life, learning about the causes and treatment options are an important part of finding relief.

What causes spinal narrowing?

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

  • Bone spur. This condition is often a result of cartilage degeneration related to conditions such as osteoarthritis. A bone spur forms as a protective structure when bone rubs on bone. Rather than being pointed, a bone spur is usually a raised bump on the bone, and if this bone spur gets large enough, it can press on a nearby nerve root or the spinal cord.
  • Ruptured disc. A healthy spinal disc consists 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 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, often related to the natural process and other factors like injury or carrying extra weight. Without cartilage, bones rub on one another, which can cause nerve irritation and bone spur growth.

Treatment options for spinal narrowing

Upon diagnosis of spinal narrowing, many doctors will begin with a course of conservative treatment options, including rest, physical therapy, hot/cold compression, medication and spinal injections. Surgery may become an option if a full course of conservative treatment options do not bring the relief required for a good quality of life. As an alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures, Laser Spine Institute provides minimally invasive spine surgery on an outpatient basis.

To learn more about what is spinal narrowing or to find out about the minimally invasive spine surgery performed at Laser Spine Institute to treat spinal narrowing, contact us today. Our minimally invasive decompression surgery and minimally invasive stabilization surgery has helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain.

We can provide you with a no-cost review of your MRI report or CT scan* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.