Diagnosing spinal stenosis

Diagnosing spinal stenosis should always involve a full evaluation conducted by your physician. While many people may read about the symptoms of spinal stenosis and assume they have the condition, self-diagnosis can be tricky because spinal stenosis symptoms — like numbness, weakness and tingling — can resemble symptoms of other conditions. To learn more about conditions related to spinal vertebrae and joints, visit our degenerative disc disease page.

Spinal stenosis is defined as a narrowing of either the spinal canal or the small spaces nerve roots use to exit the spine. This constriction can create painful compression on your spinal cord or the nerve roots. The most common cause is osteoarthritis, a condition that wears down the cartilage cushioning the joints in the spine.

How stenosis is diagnosed

If you are experiencing pain in your neck or back, contact your physician. Properly diagnosing spinal stenosis is the first step to getting effective treatment. When seeing your primary care doctor regarding a potential spinal stenosis diagnosis, you will generally start with a thorough medical history and physical exam performed by your physician. Here you can describe your symptoms and how your life is being affected in order to get closer to the potential cause.

The primary way of reaching an exact diagnosis for this condition is with imaging tests. These can determine the location and extent of your nerve compression. Examples of imaging tests include:

  • X-ray — Basic imagery that can detect some conditions on a broad level.
  • MRI: — Magnetic resonance imagery can provide a more detailed look at stenosis.
  • CT scan — Computerized tomography is computer-assisted x-ray that can provide cross-sectional view of the spine.
  • Myelogram — This kind of imagery uses dye to provide a high-contrast image, making conditions like stenosis easier to detect.

You can get your life back

Initial treatment options prescribed by a physician may include over-the-counter medication to reduce pain and inflammation, as well as strengthening and stretching exercises. Visit our physical therapy for spinal stenosis page to read about this mode of treatment. Surgery is usually not required for you to experience an easing of symptoms and a return to normal activity.

On occasion, weeks and months of these treatments do not bring the expected results of reduced pain and increased mobility. If you have been recommended for surgery but have doubts regarding the risks involved with traditional open back surgery, there are other options available for lasting pain relief. The state-of-the-art, minimally invasive spine surgery performed at Laser Spine Institute is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures. Our team of highly skilled surgeons can treat spinal stenosis with minimally invasive decompression or stabilization procedures that offer shorter recovery times^ and a better chance of regaining an active lifestyle.

On occasion, some patients require more than conservative treatments to regain their mobility. There are other options available for pain relief, including the state-of-the-art, minimally invasive procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute. Recovery times^ are shorter than other treatments like open back surgery. Contact Laser Spine Institute today for a no-cost MRI review*, and to find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures.

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