What is Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal StenosisIn medical terms, stenosis literally means "a narrowing or compression".  Spinal stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal and can cause chronic back pain. The most common cause is a wear and tear, or degeneration of the spine. Spinal stenosis usually begins with a bulging disc or herniated disc.  This condition is more prevalent in those over the age of 50 and can impact all areas of the spine, or can be limited to a single area, such as the lower back or neck.

Spinal Stenosis Symptoms

This condition can produce mild to severe chronic back pain, muscle weakness and tingling. There are two main types: Lumbar spinal stenosis is caused by the compression or narrowing of the spinal nerve roots in the lower back. Approximately 75% of cases of spinal stenosis occur in the lower back or lumbar spine and it affects the sciatic nerve running along the back of the leg. This can produce symptoms of sciatica, a tingling, weakness or numbness emanating from the lower back into the buttocks and legs which can escalate with increased activity.

The second type of spinal stenosis is in the neck also known as the cervical spine. Cervical spinal stenosis is caused by the compression or narrowing of the spinal cord in the neck and can be very dangerous, producing severe symptoms that may include major body weakness or paralysis. Cases that target the neck region are much more rare (than those in the lower back), but much more serious and would probably require a more aggressive, immediate treatment.                                           

How is Spinal Stenosis Diagnosed?

It usually begins with spinal disc changes such as a bulge or herniation. Gradually the spinal facet joint becomes inflamed and the ligaments in the spinal canal and nerve holes become overgrown forming bone spurs on the vertebrae and facets. These new growths compress the spinal cord and nerves causing chronic back pain. If a patient begins experiencing chronic back pain, it's very important to seek medical treatment from a comprehensive spine center as many of the causes of spinal stenosis will worsen over time. The more damage that has occurred, the harder it becomes to treat. As the condition progresses, there is a lower chance of successfully treating the pain with non-surgical treatments or therapies.

Spinal Stenosis Treatment Options

At Spine Centers of America we operate, literally, with a “patient first” mentality. Depending on the severity, your physician might initially recommend a non-surgical, conservative treatment approach or a minimally invasive laser spine procedure, if necessary.


Treatment options may include physical therapy, exercise, medication, chiropractic adjustments, or acupuncture and should be attempted for 6 weeks. Many times chronic back pain will be reduced using these methods if done correctly with the assistance of a doctor or physical therapist.


If conservative treatments fail to reduce a patient's pain, then minimally invasive spine procedures like an endoscopic foraminotomy or endoscopic discectomy may be required. Our board certified spinal surgeons perform these minimally invasive spine procedures to remove the unwanted debris that may be present in the spine, thus reducing the pressure or compression on the spinal cord or nerves. These procedures have a low incidence of complications. However, because it involves the spine, it is strongly recommended that a board certified spinal surgeon performs the procedure. Every physician at our comprehensive spine center is a board certified spinal surgeon.

If you need more information about this condition, feel free to visit our spine educational videos page or contact us to speak to a spine specialist.