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Types of canal stenosis by spinal region and other causes

Canal stenosis refers to narrowing of the spinal canal, which is formed by vertebral column and protects the spinal cord as it travels from the brain to the body. This condition can be classified many different ways. For example, doctors will often label canal stenosis according to the part of the spine where the narrowing is taking place. These types are:

  • Cervical canal stenosis — refers to narrowing that occurs within the top seven vertebrae which make up the cervical (upper) region of the spine
  • Thoracic canal stenosis — refers to narrowing that occurs in the middle 12 vertebrae of the thoracic (middle) spine
  • Lumbar canal stenosis — refers to narrowing that occurs in the bottom five vertebrae of the lumbar (lower) spine

Other canal stenosis classifications

A doctor can also classify canal stenosis according to the underlying cause. When a patient’s stenosis is caused by an inherited defect or when they are born with a naturally narrow spinal canal, their condition is classified as congenital canal stenosis.

If stenosis is caused by ordinary age-related degeneration that occurs normally over time, it’s referred to as degenerative canal stenosis. Degenerative stenosis occurs more frequently than congenital stenosis and is caused by conditions such as degenerative disc disease and spinal osteoarthritis.

Stenosis can also be labeled by the severity of the symptoms. Many people have mild stenosis and never experience any complications. But if there is enough narrowing to cause nerve compression of the spinal cord or an exiting nerve root, it’s classified as severe stenosis. Patients with more severe cases of canal stenosis usually require some form of treatment from their doctor, but surgery isn’t always required.

Treatment for canal stenosis

Medications, exercises and physical therapy are common conservative treatments for the different types of canal stenosis. Your doctor can recommend a more specific plan that is tailored to your needs and the type of canal stenosis you’ve been diagnosed with. Patients may begin to consider surgery if these methods don’t produce lasting relief after being fully explored and exhausted.

At USA Spine Care, we offer minimally invasive spine surgery that can treat canal stenosis on an outpatient basis. By using a less than 1-inch incision our surgeons help patients avoid the muscle disruption, hospitalization and lengthy recovery of a traditional open spine surgery.^

Reach out to our dedicated team today for a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan* to find out if you may be a candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures.

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