Kevin M. Moran, MD

What is spinal stenosis?

Aug 10, 2023
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Spinal stenosis is a medical condition characterized by the narrowing of the spaces within the spine, which can put pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves that travel through the spine. This narrowing is often a result of the natural aging process and

There are two main types of spinal stenosis:

Lumbar Stenosis: This occurs in the lower back and is the most common type of spinal stenosis. It often develops as a result of degenerative changes in the spinal discs, joints, and ligaments. Symptoms of lumbar stenosis can include lower back pain, numbness or weakness in the legs or buttocks, and pain that worsens with standing or walking and improves with sitting or leaning forward.

Cervical Stenosis: This occurs in the neck area and is less common. It can result from age-related changes in the spinal discs, bones, and ligaments of the cervical spine. Symptoms of cervical stenosis can include neck pain, numbness or weakness in the arms or hands, and pain that may radiate down the arms or into the fingers.

Common causes of spinal stenosis include:

  • Osteoarthritis: Wear and tear on the spinal joints and discs can lead to the growth of bone spurs, which can encroach on the spinal canal.
  • Herniated Discs: Discs that bulge or herniate can impinge on the spinal cord or nerves.
  • Thickened Ligaments: Ligaments that support the spine can become thicker and calcified, narrowing the spinal canal.
  • Tumors or Abnormal Growths: Uncommonly, tumors or abnormal growths within the spine can cause stenosis.
  • Trauma: Injuries that cause fractures or dislocations of the spine can lead to stenosis.

Treatment for spinal stenosis depends on the severity of the condition and the impact on an individual's daily life. Conservative treatments may include:

  • Pain Management: Over-the-counter pain medications or anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Physical Therapy: Exercises to improve strength and flexibility and to manage symptoms.
  • Lifestyle Modifications: Avoiding activities that worsen symptoms and maintaining good posture.
  • Epidural Steroid Injections: Injections of anti-inflammatory medication into the spinal area to reduce pain and inflammation.

In more severe cases, when conservative treatments are not effective, surgery may be considered to relieve pressure on the affected nerves. Surgical options may include decompression surgery or spinal fusion.

If you suspect you have spinal stenosis or are experiencing persistent back or neck pain, numbness, or weakness, make an appointment with Dr. Kevin Moran, a board certified orthopedic surgeon who is fellowship trained in spine surgery for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.