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Learn the facts about spinal stenosis including the causes of spinal stenosis and methods of prevention

If you have been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, also referred to as canal stenosis or spinal canal stenosis, you might be wondering exactly what causes this spine condition and the treatment options available to you. At USA Spine Care, we believe in educating our patients on their spine condition and the treatment options available to them so they can play an active role in their treatment conversation. When it comes to your health, no one knows your body and your needs better than you. Let us help you research your condition and treatment options so you can make the best decision for your needs.

As you continue to research spinal stenosis, please do not hesitate to reach out to our Care Team with any questions or concerns. We are here to help guide you to find relief from your chronic pain and restore your quality of life.

Overview of spinal stenosis

Understanding spinal stenosis begins with the definition of spinal stenosis. Stenosis is a Greek word that means “narrowing or constricting space.” That being said, spinal stenosis is simply the narrowing of the spinal canal that houses the spinal cord and nerve roots of the spine. There are many types of spinal stenosis, including central canal stenosis, lumbar spinal stenosis and cervical spinal stenosis.

Spinal stenosis generally occurs in two sections of the spine: cervical and lumbar. The cervical spine is located in the neck, and the lumbar spine is located in the lower back. The reason why these two sections are diagnosed with spinal stenosis more than the thoracic spine (middle of the back) is that the cervical and lumbar spine serves to bend, move, and provide flexibility. The thoracic spine’s main function is to provide support and stabilization. When the spinal canal narrows, the nerves in the spinal cord are more likely to be compressed if there is continual bending and moving of the vertebrae. For this reason, spinal stenosis is more evident and symptomatic in the cervical and lumbar sections of the spine.

While the definition of spinal stenosis is relatively simple to understand, the cause of spinal stenosis is slightly more complex.

Causes of spinal stenosis

Determining the cause of spinal stenosis can be complicated because, while spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal, there is usually an underlying spine condition that is causing the spinal canal to narrow. For example, a bulging or herniated disc would cause the spinal canal to narrow in a particular place because the bulging disc has moved out of its normal zone in the spine. In this case, the patient would have spinal stenosis caused by a bulging disc.

However, there are several instances when spinal stenosis is caused by nothing more than the natural aging process. As we age, the ligaments in our spine can become thicker and compressed. Bone spurs may grow on the vertebrae of the spine. Discs in between vertebrae may deteriorate and misalign along the spine. All of these natural aging occurrences can cause the spinal canal to narrow and a nerve root or the spinal cord to be impacted.

Some of the most common spine conditions that cause spinal stenosis are as follows:

  • Bone spurs
  • Herniated disc
  • Bulging disc
  • Spondylolisthesis

If you have been diagnosed with any of these spine conditions, you might want to consult your physician about the possibility of your condition causing spinal stenosis.

How you can help prevent spinal stenosis

Since a main cause of spinal stenosis is the general aging process, standard healthy life changes can be an effective way to help prevent spinal stenosis. For example, consider implementing the following habits into your daily life:

  • Regular exercise
  • Healthy diet
  • Comfortable sleep
  • Good posture

A regular exercise program, like swimming, yoga and Pilates, helps develop core strength and allows you to maintain strength and flexibility in your spine. That, matched with a healthy diet, ideal weight and proper nourishment, is the key to maintaining a healthy spine. In addition, sleeping on a bed that properly supports your spine, as well as practicing good posture and lifting mechanics, can help you avoid and reduce spine-related injuries and conditions.

Safe practices at home and the workplace can help you avoid injuries of all kinds. When it comes to injuries to your back, there are certain activities you should try and avoid, or take precautions against. Visit our section on the causes of spinal stenosis to learn more about how to avoid developing this painful condition.

If you think you show signs of the condition, or would like to confirm your suspicions that you may have spinal stenosis, we recommend visiting our symptoms page. Here you can see if you have one or more of the common symptoms shared by most people with the condition.

If you would like to find out more about your condition and how we can help you, please feel free to contact us. Our team will provide you with a no-cost MRI review* to help determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive, outpatient spine surgeries.

Learn more today

If you're living with spinal stenosis in the upper spine and searching for relief, reach out to USA Spine Care for help. Our multidisciplinary team is dedicated to helping people develop the right care plan to  reach treatment goals and achieve lasting relief.

Contact us today to learn more. Call toll free 1-866-249-1627.

Spinal Stenosis "Quick Answers"

Depending on the region and severity Spinal stenosis feels like tingling, burning and/or weakness in the hands, arms, neck, lower back or legs. It may also feel like a radiating pain or shooting shock-like pain. Read more in the links below:

The types of spinal stenosis are region based and consist of cervical (neck), thoracic (mid back) and lumbar or lower back. In addition, foraminal stenosis is the narrowing of the foramen. Read more in the links below:
  • Spinal Stenosis of the Neck
  • Cervical Stenosis - Basic Facts
  • Neck Stenosis Causes
  • Neck Stenosis Treatment
  • Central Canal Stenosis
  • Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
  • Spinal Stenosis in the Back
  • Spinal Stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal. This condition, most often located in the Lumbar spine, may be caused by degeneration of the spine, wear and tear, sports injury, & collapsing discs. Read more in the links below.
  • What Causes Spinal Stenosis?
  • Obesity May Lead to a Stenosis Diagnosis
  • Age and its Role in the Development of Spinal Stenosis
  • Spinal Stenosis Causes
  • Identifying Common Causes
  • From Birth Defects to Getting Older
  • Degenerative Conditions
  • Car Accident Injuries
  • The symptoms of spinal stenosis include tingling or numbness in the extremities, pain and weakness in the neck, back and/or legs. In severe cases bladder, bowel dysfunction/continence. Learn more in the links below:
  • What Are the Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?
  • Spinal Stenosis Symptoms
  • Spinal Stenosis Diagnosis
  • What Should I Do If I Think I Have Spinal Stenosis?
  • Spinal Stenosis and Hand Pain
  • Recognizing Spinal Stenosis
  • Have You Been Diagnosed?
  • About Your Diagnosis
  • Diagnostic Process
  • Helping Your Physician
  • How a Diagnosis Is Made
  • Arriving at a Diagnosis
  • Physician specialties that treat spinal stenosis include: Pain management & rehabilitation physicians, spine surgeons, orthopedic specialists & neurosurgeons. Read more about these specialties in the links below:
  • Doctors Who Treat Spinal Stenosis
  • Spinal Decompression Doctors
  • Patients can expect recovery to last 4-6 weeks in most cases (depending on the complexity of your condition). People who choose minimally invasive spine surgery recover faster and get back to work sooner than those who choose open back surgery. Read more in the links below:
  • Recovery After a Procedure
  • What to Expect Recovery Times
  • Spinal stenosis surgery, just like any surgery, comes with risks, some of those risks include:
  • Problems from anesthesia.
  • A deep infection in the surgical wound.
  • A skin infection.
  • Blood clots.
  • Nerve injury, including weakness, numbness, or paralysis.
  • Tears in the fibrous tissue that covers the spinal cord and the nerve near the spinal cord. These tears may require more surgery.
  • Trouble passing urine, or loss of bladder or bowel control.
  • Long-term (chronic) pain, which happens after surgery in some cases.
  • The chance that the surgery won't relieve your symptoms. And even if you get better with surgery, there is a chance that you may get new symptoms in the future.
  • Death from problems caused by surgery, but this is rare.
  • Read more about spinal stenosis surgery risks in the links below:

    Preventing and delaying the onset of spinal stenosis can be achieved through healthy lifestyle habits such as not smoking, eating more plant based foods and low-impact exercise. Read in more detail in the links below:
  • Spinal Stenosis Prevention
  • Avoiding Lumbar Spine Stenosis
  • Can Spinal Stenosis Be Prevented?
  • Quitting Smoking Can Help Stenosis of the Spine
  • Keeping the Spine Healthy
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