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A starter guide to understanding spinal stenosis

Suffering from spinal stenosis can have a devastating impact on a person’s ability to perform even simple activities like walking, sleeping and sitting at a desk for long periods of time. At Laser Spine Institute we understand your top priority is finding relief from your pain and symptoms, which is why we are committed to helping as many patients as possible through our minimally invasive spine surgery.

Causes of spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal. This narrowing can often cause compression to the spinal cord and surrounding nerve roots. In most cases, the condition is the result of simple wear and tear due to aging. For example, osteoarthritis of the spinal joints can lead to the formation of bone spurs, which intrude into the spinal canal and press on the nerves. Spinal stenosis may also arise when the ligaments that help hold the spinal bones together thicken over time and bulge into the canal, or when degenerating discs lead to misaligned vertebrae, a condition known as spondylolisthesis.

Other potential causes include tumors that form in the spinal cord area or the swelling of body tissues in the spinal canal as the result of a traumatic injury. In addition, some people are born with an abnormally small spinal canal.

Spinal stenosis symptoms

Not all people with spinal stenosis will experience symptoms. In fact, some will never have pain and symptoms associated with their condition. However, for those with severe narrowing, the pain and symptoms may become unbearable. Common symptoms include:

  • Occasional dizziness or headaches
  • Weakness
  • Localized pain at the area of the condition
  • Cramping in legs
  • Numbness
  • Difficulty walking or balancing
  • Radiating pain into arms and legs
  • Stiffness
  • Muscular pain or weakness

If you are experiencing these or other symptoms related to your spinal stenosis, we understand finding a suitable treatment is your first priority.

Diagnosing spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis can be difficult to diagnose. The diagnosing physician will go over the patient’s symptoms and medical history, but frequently individuals with spinal stenosis have no prior history of back pain. Moreover, the symptoms of spinal stenosis are similar to those caused by other spinal conditions. That makes it likely that the physician will order diagnostic imaging scans such as an MRI, or a myelogram to give medical professionals a detailed picture of the condition of the spine.

Spinal stenosis conservative and alternative treatment options

Before recommending that patients look into surgery to treat their spinal stenosis, we first recommend exhausting all of the available conservative treatment options. These can include physical therapy, low-impact exercise, use of a brace, medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen and corticosteroid injections. Some people may benefit from simple changes in posture, such as leaning forward while walking, which flexes the spine.

In addition, some people have experienced relief from their symptoms of spinal stenosis through alternative treatment options such as chiropractic adjustments and massage, as well as acupuncture.

Though these methods are effective for many, some patients will fail to find relief in conservative and alternative treatments.

Spinal stenosis surgery

For these patients, Laser Spine Institute offers a safer and effective alternative to traditional open surgery^ with our minimally invasive spine surgery.

For more information, and a no-cost review of your recent MRI* to find out if you may be a candidate for our minimally invasive surgery offered at our St. Louis center, contact us today.