Spinal stenosis is narrowing of the spine, often in the cervical (upper) or lumbar (lower) spinal regions. This narrowing causes compression of the spinal cord or spinal nerve roots, which can lead to pain and other symptoms like tingling and muscle weakness in the extremities.
This condition has many causes and the severity of symptoms depends on many different factors. Spinal stenosis can be debilitating if the pain becomes chronic. This condition can affect your relationships and work, as well as make it difficult to complete everyday tasks like preparing a meal or walking your dog. A very important part of treating this condition is patient education. Learning more about the causes, symptoms and treatments for spinal stenosis leads to being able to work better with doctors to return to an active life
Causes and symptoms of spinal stenosis
Common causes of spinal stenosis are age-related conditions, like osteoarthritis and degenerative disc disease. Spinal osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the cartilage cushioning your spine’s joints. This protective cartilage can wear down, eventually exposing the bone underneath. As the exposed bones in the joint rub against each other, the result is pain, swelling and tenderness. Degenerative disc disease describes the age-related drying out and breaking down of the spinal discs that cushion the vertebrae. This can lead to the discs losing height or bulging out from their normal perimeter.
Other conditions that can cause spinal stenosis include:
- Herniated and bulging discs caused by accident or injury
- Spinal tumors
- Bone spurs
- Paget’s disease
- Spinal cord trauma
Symptoms of spinal stenosis can be similar to other conditions, like a muscle strain, making a self-diagnosis difficult. Spinal stenosis symptoms might include inflammation, lower back pain, muscle spasms, swelling and joint or muscle stiffness. Some patients may discover their pain eases when bending forward or sitting.
Treating spinal stenosis
If you believe your back or neck pain could be related to spinal stenosis, contact your health care provider. He or she will be able to make a proper diagnosis by conducting a physical examination and possibly order a CT scan or MRI. For an in-depth look into treatment after diagnosis, review our spinal stenosis treatments page.
On occasion, some patients diagnosed with spinal stenosis require more than conservative treatments to live a fully functioning lifestyle once again. There are surgical options available for pain relief, including the minimally invasive procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute’s outpatient centers.
Our patient’s recovery times^ are faster and the risk of complication is lower than traditional open back surgery. Contact us today for a no-cost MRI review* to find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive outpatient procedures.