Canal stenosis is a condition characterized by the narrowing of the spinal canal, which is the passageway that houses the spinal column. It is also referred to as spinal stenosis, central stenosis and spinal canal stenosis.
What causes canal stenosis?
When a component of the spine – such as a vertebra, disc or facet joint – becomes inflamed or displaced, it may result in a section of narrowing in the spinal canal. There are several conditions that can cause this displacement or inflammation, including spondylolisthesis, bone spurs, osteoarthritis and disc injuries. Canal stenosis may also simply be a result of the body’s natural aging process. As the spine becomes more brittle and loses height with age, the space within the spinal canal can begin to narrow.
What are the symptoms of canal stenosis?
The symptoms of canal stenosis will vary according to specific location of the narrowing in the spine and whether or not the narrowing is compressing nearby spinal nerves. Some people with canal stenosis never notice any symptoms, while others may experience:
- Pain at the site of the stenosis
- Shooting or radiating pan
- Numbness or tingling sensations in the spine or extremities
- Muscle weakness
How is canal stenosis diagnosed?
Many patients with back pain or dysfunction begin to seek treatment by scheduling an appointment with their primary care physician. This physician will gather information about the patient’s symptoms and medical history, and will likely perform a thorough back evaluation to gauge function and flexibility. Imaging tests such as X-rays and CT scans may then be performed to confirm a diagnosis.
What are the treatment options for canal stenosis?
Canal stenosis treatment usually focuses on relieving nerve compression and improving mobility within the spine. There are a variety of conservative therapies that a doctor may recommend, including:
- Physical therapy
- Gentle exercise and stretching
- Hot and/or cold compresses
- Prescription or over-the-counter pain medication
- Weight loss and other beneficial lifestyle changes
Do I need surgery?
Most people with canal stenosis are able to effectively manage their pain through a combination of conservative therapies. However, in the event that severe symptoms persist despite rounds of conservative treatment, surgery may be recommended to relieve nerve compression and subsequent pain.
Laser Spine Institute Philadelphia offers minimally invasive alternatives to traditional open spine surgeries that often come with long incisions and prolonged recovery periods. Conversely, our procedures require only a less than 1-inch incision and are performed on an outpatient basis by our experienced, board-certified+ surgeons, who practice advanced muscle-sparing techniques when treating patients. Because of this minimally invasive approach to the spine, our patients benefit from a shorter recovery time^ than patients who choose traditional open spine surgery.
Contact Laser Spine Institute for a no-cost MRI review* to learn if you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures.