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What is Spinal Stenosis?


Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal. The spinal canal houses the spinal cord and nerve roots that connect to the arms and legs and the pressure caused by the narrowing can cause pain, numbness and muscle weakness. Spinal stenosis is often caused by degenerative changes in the spine related to osteoarthritis.

If the pain caused by spinal stenosis is impacting your ability to live your life to the fullest, Back Pain Centers of America can help you. Call [sc name=”patient_phone_number_dash”] to be matched with a board-certified specialist who can talk to you about ways to treat your pain and get your life back.

Pain from canal stenosis

Spinal Stenosis Causes and Risk Factors

There are several conditions that may cause spinal stenosis:

  • Bone spurs – Damage resulting from osteoarthritis can cause the formation of bone spurs, which is an overgrowth of bone. These can grow into the spinal canal.
  • Herniated discs – Discs work as tiny cushions that absorb the shock between the vertebrae. Over time they dry out and crack which can cause the soft material on the inside to bulge and press against your spinal cord or nerves.
  • Spinal injuries – Fractured or dislocated vertebrae can damage the tissues in the spinal canal and cause swelling.
  • ScoliosisScoliosis is a curvature of the spine.
  • Paget’s disease of the bone – This condition causes an abnormal growth pattern of bones, leading them to become damaged and brittle.
  • Spondylolisthesis – This is a condition in which one of the vertebra slides forward over the vertebra below it.

In some cases, a person is just born with a naturally narrower spinal canal, which increases the risk of pain from spinal stenosis.

Age is the biggest risk factor because of the degenerative changes that happen in the spine as we get older. The condition mostly affects those over the age of 50.

Spinal Stenosis Symptoms

Not everyone with spinal canal stenosis will experience symptoms. The symptoms of spinal stenosis often begin gradually and worsen as time goes on and the symptoms vary depending on the location of the narrowing.

When in the cervical spine (neck), tingling in the hand is one of the most common symptoms. Cervical stenosis can also cause:

  • Neck pain
  • Tingling, numbness or weakness in an arm, leg, or foot
  • Walking and balancing difficulties

When in the lumbar spine (lower back), spinal stenosis symptoms can include:

  • Back pain
  • Pain and cramping in the legs
  • Difficulty standing for long periods or walking

In severe cases, the nerves that connect to the bladder and bowel can become affected and lead to incontinence. This is referred to as Cauda Equina syndrome and is considered a medical emergency.

spinal stenosis causes back pain

Spinal Stenosis Treatment

Spinal stenosis treatment often begins with nonsurgical treatments that are used to relieve the pain and symptoms of stenosis. These include a combination of:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers – Analgesics, such as acetaminophen, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen can help with pain and inflammation.
  • Heat and cold packs – Using the correct combination of heat and cold therapy may help alleviate pain.
  • Spinal injections – Corticosteroid injections, which are often combined with a numbing agent, may be used to help alleviate pain associated with spinal stenosis.
  • Physical therapy – Special strengthening and stretching exercises may be prescribed to improve flexibility and range of motion while also strengthening muscles to help support the spine.
  • Bracing – Patients with especially weak abdominal muscles or those with degeneration that affects various levels of the spine may need to wear a brace to support the spine.

When nonsurgical treatment for spinal stenosis fails to provide sufficient relief after a few weeks or if the symptoms are severe, surgical treatment is the next step. There are several surgical options available to treat spinal stenosis and the type of procedure used depends on the cause of your spinal stenosis. Most of the procedures can now be performed using minimally invasive techniques that use a tiny incision and offer a quick recovery in comparison to traditional open surgery for canal stenosis.

One example of a surgical procedure your doctor may suggest for your spinal stenosis is the interspinous stabilization surgery. In this procedure, an implant is used to relieve back pain or numbness in the legs or buttocks caused by spinal stenosis. This procedure is a non-fusion, minimally-invasive alternative to laminectomy and may be used with or without spinal fusion. See video for treatment information.

Don’t delay relief. If weakness and pain are interfering with your ability to partake in the activities that you enjoy, call [sc name=”patient_phone_number_dash”] to learn about our minimally invasive procedures for spinal stenosis. Thousands of others have taken back their lives with the help of our board-certified specialists. Back Pain Centers of America offers several minimally invasive spinal stenosis treatment options that can relieve your symptoms and get you back to your activities quickly.

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