Spinal stenosis — causes and treatment options for severe spinal stenosis

Severe spinal stenosis occurs when the narrowing in the spinal column, called spinal stenosis, becomes so narrow that it compresses the nerve roots in the spinal cord and creates debilitating pain.

Patients who suffer from severe spinal stenosis often endure chronic neck or back pain that prevents them from doing simple activities like walking and standing for long periods of time. If you have been diagnosed with spinal stenosis and have not sought treatment, you may be experiencing these same symptoms. Over time, as the spinal stenosis worsens, you might find yourself unable to participate in your hobbies or perform daily activities. Left untreated, severe spinal stenosis can cause a decrease in your quality of life.

Diagnosing spinal stenosis

Diagnosing spinal stenosis can be difficult because it can be caused by a range of different spine conditions. Additionally, severe spinal stenosis may have more than one cause, or one contributing spine condition that is also severe. In order to accurately diagnose your spinal stenosis and determine the root cause, you will need to schedule an evaluation with your physician which may include the need for diagnostic imagery such as an MRI.

There are several contributing factors to severe spinal stenosis. Some of the most common contributing factors are as follows:

  • Bulging or herniated disc. A bulging or herniated disc occurs when the disc between two vertebrae in the spine becomes damaged or degenerative and begins to expand beyond its normal perimeter. The expansion of a disc can decrease the space between the walls of the spinal canal and the expanded disc in the spine, contributing to spinal stenosis.
  • Bone spurs. Bones spurs are unexpected growths on the vertebrae or ligaments in the spine. These growths occur when the joints between the vertebrae begin to deteriorate due to injury or age and the vertebrae begin to compress against each other. Much like a herniated disc, a bone spur can contribute to spinal stenosis by narrowing the already tight nerve pathways in the spinal column.
  • Spondylolisthesis. Spondylolisthesis is a spine condition that describes the slippage of one vertebra over another. If a vertebrae is misaligned and out of the natural placement of the spine it can constrict the spinal nerve pathways.

Once your physician decides the cause of your severe spinal stenosis, you can create a treatment plan to help address your chronic pain.

Treatment options for severe spinal stenosis

By the time a person is diagnosed with severe spinal stenosis, he or she typically has already been to the physician numerous times for neck pain, back pain and other symptoms. Treatments may begin with rest and physical therapy for mild spinal stenosis, and then slowly graduate to prescription pain or anti-inflammatory medications and epidural steroid injections if the pain continues to be debilitating.

If your spinal stenosis progresses to a severe state without any lasting pain relief from conservative treatments, you may want to consider a surgical treatment option for your pain. Traditional open back surgery requires overnight hospitalization as well as a relatively long recovery. During the procedure, the muscles and soft tissues surrounding the spine are cut, causing your risk of complication to be higher. At Laser Spine Institute, we offer a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine procedures.^ Our minimally invasive spine surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure at one of our world-class regional surgery centers. For more information about the minimally invasive surgery we offer to treat spinal stenosis, please contact us today.

Our team will give you a no-cost MRI review* so we can find out if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.

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