What Is Stenosis?


When the space inside your spinal column narrows, it’s a condition called spinal stenosis. This narrowing means there’s less space available for your spinal cord and the surrounding nerves, so they become pinched or irritated. Stenosis develops slowly over time and is most common in people over the age of 50.

If you have back or neck pain, find out the cause of your discomfort and get the most effective form of treatment. Back pain caused by stenosis can be resolved when you consult the spine experts at Premier Brain & Spine, New Jersey’s top spine specialty practice.

What Are the Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis can occur anywhere along your spinal column, but the most common areas for the condition are your neck and lower back. When your lower back is affected, it’s called lumbar stenosis. For your neck, it’s called cervical spinal stenosis. Common symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis include:

  • Lower back pain
  • Tingling or numbness in your legs or feet
  • Discomfort in one or both legs, particularly when standing for long periods of time
  • Weakness in one leg
  • Sciatica

You may be suffering from cervical stenosis if you have symptoms that include:

  • Neck pain
  • Tingling or numbness in your arms, hands, legs or feet
  • Weakness in an upper or lower limb
  • Problems with balance

The pain of spinal stenosis is sometimes described as burning, stabbing or shooting. It may worsen with walking, standing, bending or twisting. Symptoms may come and go. In severe cases, sexual function may be affected, and you may experience a loss of bladder or bowel control.

What Causes Spinal Stenosis?

Lumbar, Spinal, Stenosis

Spinal stenosis usually develops gradually from years of use or abuse. Conditions that contribute to the development of spinal stenosis include:

For some people, spinal stenosis is congenital, which means they were born with a narrowed spinal canal. Previous surgery or a spinal injury sometimes leads to the development of this condition.

What Are My Options for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Treatment?

Treatment of lumbar stenosis usually begins with a conservative, non-surgical approach. At first, your NJ orthopedist may recommend:

  • Exercise or physical therapy to strengthen abdominal and back muscles
  • Low impact aerobics, such as swimming or using an exercise bike
  • Heat or ice applications
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Numbing injections

Your NJ spine specialist may prescribe painkillers if you’re experiencing severe pain. If you continue to experience pain or other symptoms that impact your quality of life after trying a conservative approach, lumbar stenosis surgery may be the next step.

What Is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Surgery?

Lumbar stenosis surgery removes bony growths or portions of bone protruding on your discs. Growths on bones irritate or pinch spinal nerves and crowd the spinal canal. Different types of surgery to treat lumbar spinal stenosis include:

  • Lumbar foraminotomy. This procedure involves removing bone or tissue to create more room for the nerve roots to exit through your vertebrae.
  • Laminectomy. Also called decompression surgery, this procedure removes part of a vertebra to make room for the spinal cord and nerves.
  • Spinal fusion. This surgery joins two or more spinal vertebrae to stop any movement between them and improve the stability of your spine.

Sometimes, the procedures can be done using minimally invasive techniques. Minimally invasive laminectomy and foraminotomy, for example, is a procedure that’s quicker and takes less recovery time than traditional surgery.

What Are Options for Cervical Spinal Stenosis Treatment?

Like lumbar spinal stenosis treatment, when you need treatment for cervical stenosis, the doctors at the spine center usually recommend a conservative approach to start, which may include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen
  • Heat or ice
  • Physical therapy

Advanced cases of spinal stenosis in the neck can lead to a condition called cervical myelopathy. This condition causes symptoms, such as trouble walking and problems with balance. When non-surgical treatment is unsuccessful at relieving pain or pressure on your spinal cord, your doctor may recommend cervical stenosis surgery.

Can I Prevent Spinal Stenosis?

Most cases of spinal stenosis happen because of the normal wear-and-tear on your spine over several decades. Damage and deterioration caused by aging can’t be completely prevented, but healthy lifestyle choices slow the progression. Things to do to reduce the risk of developing stenosis include:

  • Staying active
  • Participating in regular exercise if your doctor says it’s safe for you to do so
  • Not smoking
  • Maintaining an ideal body weight

Don’t postpone making an appointment to see a spine specialist if you’re experiencing back pain, neck pain, numbness or other symptoms that concern you. Contact the experienced team at Premier Brain & Spine to schedule a consultation today.