Spinal stenosis causes — The diagnostic process may provide answers to what caused the narrowing in your spine

Spinal stenosis causes can include anything from inherited narrowness within the spine’s channels and openings, to age-related degenerative spine conditions such as osteoarthritis and degenerative disc disease (DDD) that significantly reduce the strength and stability of the spinal column. It’s a common condition that produces more than 200,000 new cases in the United States each year. Interestingly, no matter what causes spinal stenosis, many patients who have the condition are not aware of it. That’s because narrowing within the spinal canal or other spinal openings is not necessarily symptomatic, in and of itself.

When spinal stenosis does cause a problem, it is usually in the presence of nerve root compression or spinal cord compression, which can lead to neck or back pain, shooting pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness in the area of the body reinforced by the affected nerve root or compressed portion of the spinal cord.

Helping the physician

In some cases, underlying spinal stenosis causes can only be confirmed by medical imaging — an MRI, a CT scan and/or an X-ray. Quite often, however, the diagnostic process begins with a conversation between the patient and the physician. The conversation will usually begin with questions asked by the physician, and the patient should be prepared to answer those questions in as much detail as possible. These questions might include:

  • Are symptoms experienced more frequently at a particular time of day or night?
  • How long have you experienced symptoms like stiffness, neck pain, back pain and tingling, numbness, muscle weakness and pain in other areas of the body?
  • Does a particular motion, position (such as leaning forward) or activity reduce or give rise to the symptoms?
  • Have you ever suffered a neck or back injury?
  • Does your family have a history of degenerative spine conditions?

Your answers will provide the physician with clues about whether or not you may have spinal stenosis, and possibly whether there are specific underlying spinal stenosis causes, like herniated discs, spondylolisthesis or osteoarthritis.

When to seek diagnosis

If spinal stenosis causes you chronic, debilitating pain or other symptoms that interfere with your way of life, it might be time for you to seek more advanced treatment options, including surgery. To learn if you are a candidate to receive minimally invasive treatment for spinal stenosis and other degenerative spine conditions, contact Laser Spine Institute.

Browse Related Resources