Spinal stenosis and neuropathy — connection and treatment options

Spinal stenosis and neuropathy can be connected to one another, which can also affect how these conditions are treated. Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal or of the neural foramina, which are the openings where nerve roots exit the spinal column. This narrowing can occur at any level of the spine, placing pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots, which can cause a number of painful symptoms. One of the many problems that can develop due to spinal narrowing is neuropathy.

The relationship between spinal stenosis and neuropathy

Neuropathy is defined as a group of symptoms, such as burning pain, tingling or numbness, which are caused by nerve damage or disruption. The term most often refers to harm done to the peripheral nerves that are responsible for transmitting sensory and motor information throughout the body. This is more specifically called peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral nerves control the perception of touch and heat, muscle movement among other functions, so anything preventing these nerves from functioning properly can result in debilitating symptoms.

Peripheral neuropathy is sometimes caused by spinal stenosis, particularly in the lumbar (lower) region of the spine, where it most commonly affects the sciatic nerve. This nerve is the largest in the human body, sending information to areas from the lower back to the feet. When damage or compression occurs to the sciatic nerve, it may appear as the following:

  • Pain
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Throbbing
  • Weakness

These symptoms often travel along the course of the nerve out into the lower body for the lumbar spine or the arms and hands for spinal stenosis in the cervical (upper) spine.

Surgery options for spinal stenosis patients

To address the pain, loss of sensation and other issues that can arise from spinal stenosis and resulting peripheral neuropathy, patients usually start with conservative treatments recommended by a doctor. These methods can include applying hot/cold therapy, completing low-impact exercises, restricting activity and taking medication to relieve pain and inflammation. In many cases, conservative treatment proves effective in providing relief, but in the instances when they don’t, surgery may be recommended.

The goal for spinal stenosis surgery is opening up space in the spinal column to relieve pressure on the affected nerves. This can be achieved by removing a portion of the roof of a vertebra, or lamina, during a laminotomy or through widening the foramina by clearing out bone spurs and other obstructions. In some cases, removal of a severely damaged disc followed by spinal fusion may also be recommended to lend added stability to the spinal column.

Surgery to relieve spinal stenosis and related neuropathy can be performed on an outpatient basis by the board-certified surgeons+ at Laser Spine Institute. Since 2005 we have helped thousands of patients with our minimally invasive spine surgery, helping to establish us as the leader in this exciting field. To learn more about the surgical procedures we perform to address peripheral neuropathy and spinal stenosis, contact us today.

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