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Everything you need to know about spinal narrowing from the spine experts at Laser Spine Institute St. Louis

Spinal narrowing goes by many different names, such as spinal stenosis, spinal canal narrowing, canal stenosis and many other variations of the same. Though the names of this condition may vary, the definition does not. Spinal narrowing is what it sounds like — the narrowing of the spaces within the spinal canal.

For many people, this condition will naturally develop with the aging process of the spine. However, by taking the time to understand what causes this condition, you may be able to prevent or postpone the development of spinal narrowing within your spinal canal. As you read through the overview of this condition, feel free to contact our team at Laser Spine Institute with any questions you may have about the treatment options available to you.

What causes spinal narrowing?

To understand what causes spinal narrowing, it helps to understand the role that the spinal canal plays in your overall spine health. The spinal canal is a passageway that hosts the spine, spinal cord and peripheral nerve roots that send signals from the spinal cord to the rest of the body. In a healthy spinal canal, there is space between the spine and the walls of the canal which allows the spine to bend and move and the nerve roots to travel without any painful nerve compression.

There are certain factors that can cause the walls of the spinal canal to narrow, such as:

  • Age
  • Obesity
  • Another spine condition, such as a bone spur or herniated disc
  • Repetitive motion
  • Genetic factors

While age and weight gain play an important factor in the development of spinal narrowing, this condition can often be found as a consequence of another spine condition developing. For example, if a bulging disc develops within the spine, a disc will protrude outward into the spinal canal, narrowing the space within the canal in that particular section. This is considered spinal narrowing. If the narrowing causes a nerve root to be pinched or compressed, painful symptoms may develop.

What are the symptoms of spinal narrowing?

Spinal narrowing does not cause any symptoms on its own, but the narrowing of the space within the spinal canal does increase the risk of a nerve root becoming trapped or pinched, which can cause painful symptoms to occur, such as:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pins-and-needles feeling
  • Burning sensation
  • Difficulty walking or sitting

In some cases, these symptoms may occur at the site of the pinched nerve in the spinal canal. However, if the nerve compression is significant, the symptoms may travel the length of the pinched nerve into other areas of the body, such as the arm or leg.

How to diagnose spinal narrowing

If you have been experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important for you to schedule an appointment with your doctor to determine what is causing your pain. To check for spinal narrowing, your doctor will ask your questions about your symptoms, medical history and any recent activities that could have led to this pain.

Once you have answered these questions, your doctor will perform a physical evaluation and likely order an MRI or CT scan to view exactly what is causing the nerve compression in your spinal canal. If it is determined that spinal narrowing is the cause of your pain, your doctor will recommend a series of treatments designed to relieve pressure on the pinched nerve so you can regain your quality of life.

What are the treatment options for spinal narrowing?

Spinal narrowing can often be treated through a series of conservative treatments, such as pain medication, physical therapy and weight loss, as well as other nonsurgical options. If these treatments are ineffective after several weeks or months, your doctor may recommend that you undergo spine surgery to treat your condition.

Surgery for spinal narrowing can differ depending on the exact cause of the condition. For example, spinal narrowing caused by a bone spur will be treated different than stenosis caused by age and weight gain. At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive spine surgery to treat the cause of your condition, not just the symptoms themselves. Our procedures offer a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of complications compared to traditional open neck or back surgery.

To learn more about the minimally invasive spine surgery offered at Laser Spine Institute St. Louis, contact us today. Our dedicated team can offer you a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures.