Spinal stenosis overview

Spinal stenosis is a degenerative spine condition that describes the narrowing of the spinal canal. For many patients, spinal stenosis does not develop on its own, but rather develops as the result of another degenerative spine condition.

For example, if a herniated or bulging disc protrudes out of the spine, it has now narrowed the free space within the spinal canal where the nerves travel. Likewise, a bone spur or an inflamed joint from spinal arthritis can cause a blockage in the spinal canal, thereby narrowing the canal and causing spinal stenosis.

Spinal stenosis and spinal degeneration

The natural weakening and degeneration of the spine with age is the most common cause of degenerative spine conditions, including spinal stenosis.

After years of normal wear and tear, your spinal column can lose its structural strength and become narrow, creating pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots. The discs in the spine can dehydrate and tear, and the joints can wear down and become inflamed and swollen. The constant pressure of weight gain and repetitive motion can accelerate the deterioration process, causing your spine to develop a degenerative condition like spinal stenosis.

On its own, spinal stenosis does not cause pain or symptoms. However, if a nerve becomes compressed or pinched in the narrowed spinal canal, the following symptoms may develop:

  • Pain
  • Weakness
  • Tingling
  • Numbness

Spinal stenosis also can cause a spinal nerve compression condition called sciatica, which is a symptom of an inflamed or injured sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve stretches from your spinal cord in your lower back (lumbar spine) to your feet, supplying feeling and movement. If it’s injured or its roots are compressed, your lower back and legs may tingle, ache or have a burning sensation.

Treatment options for spinal stenosis

Without treatment, spinal stenosis can lead to recurring pain that may limit your daily activities, such as the ability to work, run errands or walk the golf course. Pain can radiate from your neck or back to your extremities.

If, after reading this spinal stenosis overview, you believe your back pain is due to spinal stenosis, contact your health care provider. He or she will be able to make a proper diagnosis and recommend the appropriate treatment. For an in-depth look into treatment, review our spinal stenosis treatments page.

Occasionally, some patients diagnosed with spinal stenosis require more than conservative treatment to find lasting relief from neck or back pain. If this is your situation, you may be a candidate for the minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute.

Our minimally invasive decompression surgery and minimally invasive stabilization surgery offer several proven advantages over traditional open neck or back surgery. Recovery times are quicker^ and the risk of complication and infection is lower, due to no need for overnight hospitalization, with our minimally invasive procedures compared to other treatments like open back surgery.

Contact us today for a review of your MRI report or CT scan, and to receive more information about our outpatient procedures.

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