About spinal stenosis

By Michael Perry, M.D.

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spine, often in the cervical (upper) or lumbar (lower) spinal regions. This narrowing can cause compression of the spinal cord or spinal nerve roots, which typically leads to pain and other debilitating symptoms. If spinal stenosis becomes chronic, it can have a severe impact on your life, taking you away from the people and activities you love. Getting a basic overview of this condition can help you better work with your doctor to get the treatment you need for a return to daily activity.

Causes and symptoms

One common cause of spinal stenosis is osteoarthritis, a condition which 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 stiff, swollen joints that can cause narrowing of the nerve passageways in the spine. To learn more about diseases related to spinal vertebrae and joints, visit our facet disease page.

Spinal stenosis can also be caused by a herniated disc, spinal tumors, bone spurs, Paget’s disease or a spinal cord trauma.

Symptoms of spinal stenosis can mimic strained muscles and slipped discs, making a self-diagnosis tricky. Spinal stenosis symptoms might include:

  • Inflammation
  • Neck or lower back pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Swelling
  • Joint or muscle stiffness
  • Tingling and numbness in the upper or lower extremities

If you have been experiencing these symptoms for longer than a few days to a week, you should see your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment of your condition.

Treating spinal stenosis

Your doctor should be able to make a proper diagnosis by through a physical examination and review of medical history. More advanced methods like a neurological examination and diagnostic imagery like a CT scan or MRI may be required. For an in-depth look into treatment after diagnosis, review our spinal stenosis treatments page.

In some situations patients diagnosed with spinal stenosis require more than conservative treatment to find relief from their symptoms. If you are considering surgery to treat spinal stenosis but are concerned about the risks that come with traditional open spine surgery, reach out to Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery involves a less than 1-inch incision to access the spine. The result is a shorter recovery time^ and less risk of complication for our procedures compared to traditional open spine surgery.

Contact us for a no-cost MRI review* to find out if you’re a candidate for our outpatient procedures.

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