Spinal stenosis and the role of arthritis

One of the most common causes of spinal stenosis — the narrowing of the spinal canal — is arthritis of the spine. Spinal arthritis, by definition, means inflammation of joints, bones and soft tissue. As the components of the spine inflame and grow beyond their normal size, the space in the spinal canal may become narrowed, leaving less room for the nerves to travel to and from the spine.

While spinal stenosis and spinal arthritis are sometimes left undetected, the two combined can cause a nerve to become trapped in the spinal canal, resulting in symptoms of pain and discomfort. If you are experiencing pain in your back with certain movements, gradual onset pain and/or radiating pain in your extremities, you should consult your physician to determine the cause of your symptoms. If you do have arthritis of the spine that is causing spinal stenosis, your physician can help you find an effective treatment to relieve your pain.

Types of spinal arthritis that cause spinal stenosis

The most common (and often the most painful and debilitating) type of spinal arthritis is osteoarthritis. This type of arthritis can cause spinal stenosis the following ways:

  • The cartilage covering the joints that connect the vertebrae can wear out, and the connecting facet joints may start rubbing against each other.
  • The synovial fluid that lubricates these joints can thin out or dry up over time.
  • These conditions can encourage the growth of bone spurs in the spinal canal.
  • Bone spurs protrude into the spinal canal, causing the canal to narrow.
  • When the spinal canal narrows like this, nerve roots and the spinal cord can become pinched or squeezed.
  • Nerve roots emerging from the spinal canal are connected to peripheral nerves that coordinate motion and sensation in other parts of the body. When nerves are compressed, or pinched, in this way, they signal pain in the back and neck, as well as pain, numbness and tingling in the extremities.
  • When these symptoms become severe, it may lead to trouble walking, standing and even sitting.

Treatment for spinal arthritis and spinal stenosis

If your symptoms of spinal stenosis are mild, you may be placed on over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications by your physician to help reduce the inflammation of arthritis. Another method of relieving the inflammation of arthritis is the use of a corticosteroid injection. Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that can be injected into the spinal area to help reduce inflammation and provide enough immediate, short-term relief for a person to engage in a physical rehabilitation treatment program.

But, if your condition does not respond to these conservative therapies, your physician may recommend surgery to relieve the pressure on your nerve roots or spinal cord. Traditional open back surgery involves a lengthy recovery period for most individuals. Laser Spine Institute’s minimally invasive outpatient procedures are a more effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery and have shorter recuperation periods.§

Patients with arthritis of the spine can undergo our minimally invasive facet thermal ablation. During this procedure, a laser is used to reduce the inflammation caused by arthritis and to deaden the immediate surrounding nerves in order to reduce the pain and symptoms of a pinched nerve. Our minimally invasive spine surgery offers a 97 percent patient satisfaction rate and has been used to treat more than 60,000 patients.

For more information, contact Laser Spine Institute today. We will be happy to review* your MRI at no cost to determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures.

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