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About spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spine, often in the cervical (upper) or lumbar (lower) spinal regions. This narrowing can cause compression of the spinal cord or spinal nerve roots, which typically leads to pain and other debilitating symptoms. If spinal stenosis becomes chronic, it can have a severe impact on your life, taking you away from the people and activities you love. Getting a basic overview of this condition can help you better work with your doctor to get the treatment you need for a return to daily activity.

Causes and symptoms

One common cause of spinal stenosis is osteoarthritis, a condition which affects the cartilage cushioning your spine’s joints. This protective cartilage can wear down, eventually exposing the bone underneath. As the exposed bones in the joint rub against each other, the result is stiff, swollen joints that can cause narrowing of the nerve passageways in the spine. To learn more about diseases related to spinal vertebrae and joints, visit our facet disease page.

Spinal stenosis can also be caused by a herniated disc, spinal tumors, bone spurs, Paget’s disease or a spinal cord trauma.

Symptoms of spinal stenosis can mimic strained muscles and slipped discs, making a self-diagnosis tricky. Spinal stenosis symptoms might include:

  • Inflammation
  • Neck or lower back pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Swelling
  • Joint or muscle stiffness
  • Tingling and numbness in the upper or lower extremities

If you have been experiencing these symptoms for longer than a few days to a week, you should see your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment of your condition.

Treating spinal stenosis

Your doctor should be able to make a proper diagnosis by through a physical examination and review of medical history. More advanced methods like a neurological examination and diagnostic imagery like a CT scan or MRI may be required. For an in-depth look into treatment after diagnosis, review our spinal stenosis treatments page.

In some situations patients diagnosed with spinal stenosis require more than conservative treatment to find relief from their symptoms. If you are considering surgery to treat spinal stenosis but are concerned about the risks that come with traditional open spine surgery, reach out to USA Spine Care. Our minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery involves a less than 1-inch incision to access the spine. The result is a shorter recovery time^ and less risk of complication for our procedures compared to traditional open spine surgery.

Contact us for a no-cost MRI review* to find out if you’re a candidate for our outpatient procedures.

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: Spinal Stenosis Spinal Stenosis Overview Defining Spinal Stenosis Researching Spinal Stenosis Learning About Back Stenosis Spinal Stenosis Pathophysiology
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

  • 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 in the links below: Overview of Risk Factors Most Common Risk Factors Obesity & Spinal Stenosis Spinal Stenosis & Arthritis Treating Elderly Patients

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