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Dr. Perry What are the advantages of Laser Spine Institute?
Dr. Michael Perry, Chief Medical Director and Co-Founder of Laser Spine Institute, explains the breakthrough procedures and gives you the opportunity to find out whether you are a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery.

Spinal Stenosis Overview

If your physician just informed you that an X-ray or MRI reveals you have spinal stenosis, you may feel puzzled by the unfamiliar term, which means a narrowing of the space around the spinal cord. Some constriction within the spine is actually a normal byproduct of aging. As we age, the soft tissues and bones in our spine may harden or become overgrown, thus narrowing the space around our spinal cord. Meanwhile, some people are born with a narrower-than-normal spinal canal. Although nearly everyone’s spinal passages narrow as they age, some people suffer from debilitating symptoms while others do not. Spinal stenosis can become debilitating if the narrowing of a spinal passageway puts pressure on a nerve root or the spinal cord itself, a painful condition called nerve compression.

Spinal stenosis symptoms

The symptoms of spinal stenosis can become debilitating when narrowing of the spine associated with stenosis compresses a nerve root or the spinal cord itself. This contact with nerve tissue—whether constant or intermittent—is known as nerve compression. The location along the spine where a nerve becomes compressed dictates the types of symptoms you may experience. For example, if you have a compressed nerve in your neck, you may suffer from shooting pains, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness in the shoulders, arms, hands or fingers. If you have a compressed nerve in your lower back, you may suffer from the symptoms of sciatica in your lower extremities.

Be on the lookout for these potential signs of spinal stenosis:

  • A decrease in sensitivity to hot or cold
  • Sudden and persistent pain that is especially bad at night
  • Bladder or bowel dysfunction, which may be a symptom of an emergency condition known as caudaequina syndrome
  • Difficulty walking, or a noticeable change in gait
  • Pain that continues during periods of inactivity
  • Pain that radiates along the length of a compressed nerve
  • Tingling, numbness or weakness in the areas innervated by a compressed nerve
  • A noticeable change in the curvature of your spine

Spinal stenosis causes

If you’ve blamed old age for your back’s aches and pains, this might come as a surprise: Spinal stenosis, the narrowing of spaces within the spine that sometimes leads to recurring pain, can occur among the young and old. While some constriction within the spine is a normal byproduct of aging, some people are actually born with a narrower-than-normal spinal canal. Spinal stenosis also can occur as a result of any tissue, bone matter or disc material entering the spinal canal and placing pressure on the spinal cord. Examples of the most common causes of spinal stenosis include:

  • Normal deterioration due to aging
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Bone spurs (or “osteophytes”)
  • Bulging discs
  • Herniated discs
  • Injury or trauma to the spine
  • Spondylolisthesis

Spinal stenosis treatment

The good news about spinal stenosis is there are numerous treatments available that can alleviate the pain and discomfort it causes. If you suffer from the condition, your physician may prescribe one or more of the following treatment options:

  • Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve pain and inflammation
  • Restricted activity and/or rest
  • Hot and cold packs
  • Wearing of a neck or back brace
  • Epidural steroid injections
  • Low-impact exercises like walking or swimming
  • Deep tissue massage

If your symptoms do not respond to these conservative treatments, other options are available, including the minimally invasive, outpatient procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute.

Additional Information on Common Spine Conditions