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Canal stenosis FAQ | frequently asked questions

If you have recently been diagnosed with canal stenosis, it is normal to have many questions about your condition. At USA Spine Care we want to help you make informed, confident decisions about your treatment so we’ve put together this list of questions that are frequently asked by our patients.

Q: What is canal stenosis?
A: Canal stenosis is a condition that describes narrowing of the spinal canal, which is the channel that contains the spinal cord. This vertical pathway starts at the base of the skull and continues down to the lower back. The spinal canal is mainly constructed of an outgrowth from the rear of each vertebrae called the vertebral arch and also is bordered by the spinal discs, joints and muscles. Sometimes, the narrowing of the spinal canal can compress the spinal cord or its nerve roots, which in turn can lead to several uncomfortable symptoms.

Q: What causes canal stenosis?
A: Canal stenosis is typically caused by another underlying condition. For instance, a herniated disc may push into the spinal canal, where it can press up against the spinal cord or a nerve root. The bulged material takes up extra space and narrows the canal.
Other conditions that can lead to canal stenosis include:

Bone spurs
Bulging discs
Joint hypertrophy
Ligament hypertrophy
Ankylosing spondylitis
Spinal tumors
Paget’s disease

Sometimes, a sudden trauma, such as an automobile accident or a sports injury, can also lead to canal stenosis. People may also be born with a naturally narrow spine that is likely to become narrower with age.

Q: What are the symptoms?
A: When the spinal canal becomes so narrow that it presses up against a spinal nerve, symptoms can result. Pain and tingling are the most common symptoms of the spinal narrowing. Depending on the location of narrowing, discomfort can be felt locally in the neck and back as well as the extremities. Muscle weakness, numbness and cramping may also occur.

Q: What are some treatment options?
A: Canal stenosis is often treated with a combination of conservative options, such as rest, exercise, physical therapy, pain medication and epidural steroid injections. Doctors may also address lifestyle factors that affect spine health, such as tobacco use, weight or posture. For many patients, these treatments are enough to provide significant symptom relief and a return to normal, comfortable activity.

Q: Will I need surgery?
A: You may be recommended to consult with a specialist for surgery if you have exhausted conservative options and symptoms have not improved, or worsened. If you are in this situation, the dedicated team at USA Spine Care can help you learn more about the advantages of minimally invasive spine surgery. Our outpatient procedures involve a less than 1-inch incision and offer our patients a shorter recovery time compared to traditional open neck or back surgery.^

To find out if you are a potential candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures, reach out to us today for a no-cost MRI review.*

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