Why is spinal stenosis more common among older men and women?

Spinal stenosis is a condition that involves narrowing of the nerve passages in the spinal column. This can include the central spinal canal or the nerve root exits, called foramina. Stenosis can result in compression or irritation of the nervous tissue in the spine, causing painful symptoms both locally and throughout the body.

There are many underlying causes for spinal stenosis, including injury and genetics, but the largest contributor is the natural aging process. If you have been diagnosed with spinal stenosis and are wondering why this condition tends to affect people as they get older, the following information can help you better understand this relationship.

How age-related changes can cause spinal stenosis

The primary functions of the spine are to hold the body upright and protect the central spinal cord as it travels from the brain to the rest of the body. To allow for movement and flexibility, the individual spinal segments — vertebrae — are linked by joints and cushioned by discs. Over time these parts begin to dry out and undergo other natural changes that make them less able to withstand the pressure placed on them every day.

Eventually the effect of aging can cause spinal anatomy to become displaced and constrict the already tight nerve passages in the spinal column. Specific conditions that can cause this constriction include:

  • Arthritis of the spine
  • Bulging discs
  • Herniated discs
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spondylolisthesis, also called vertebral slippage

Like spinal stenosis, these underlying conditions all become more likely to affect men and women as they get older.

Treatment for spinal stenosis

In a large number of spinal stenosis cases, people are able to manage pain and return to normal functioning with conservative treatments. A doctor-recommended plan may include medication, rest, hot/cold therapy, spinal injections, massage and physical therapy. Lifestyle changes like quitting smoking or starting a weight management program may also be suggested.

If you have been recommended for spine surgery to treat stenosis or are starting to research surgical options after finding conservative treatments to be ineffective, contact Laser Spine Institute today. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine procedures^ and we have been able to help more than 75,000 patients find relief since 2005.

Find out if you are a potential candidate for one of our outpatient procedures by asking for your no-cost MRI review.*

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