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Spinal narrowing

Spinal narrowing defined

Spinal narrowing, also called spinal stenosis, is a condition in which the nerve pathways in the spin narrow and compress nerves. When another part of the spine encroaches on the space in the spinal column, it can irritate the spinal cord or a nearby nerve root, creating a variety of painful symptoms.

Diagnosing spinal narrowing

Because there are many spinal conditions that can cause similar symptoms, it’s important to consult a doctor when any pain or discomfort arises. Your doctor will likely start the diagnosis by performing a physical exam, asking you about your symptoms and reviewing your medical history. To confirm a diagnosis and to determine the exact location of the nerve compression, your doctor will likely recommend an imaging test. There are several medical imaging options available, including an X-ray, MRI test, CT scan and myelogram.

Causes of spinal narrowing

Spinal narrowing is often caused by another spinal condition, such as:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • A bulging or herniated disc
  • Bone spurs from osteoarthritis

In each of these conditions, part of a spinal disc or bone may extend into the spinal canal, causing the space available for the spinal cord and nerves to narrow.

Symptoms of spinal narrowing

When a disc or bone spur hits a nerve root or part of the spinal cord, it can cause pain at the site of compression as well as muscle weakness, tingling and numbness along the nerve pathway. Spinal narrowing most commonly affects the lumbar (lower) spine, in which case symptoms will affect the lower back, hip area and one or both of the legs. A common symptom of lumbar spinal stenosis is leg weakness on one side.

Treatment for spinal narrowing

Conservative treatment methods are commonly recommended as a first step in alleviating symptoms. Your doctor may recommend one or more of the following:

  • Over-the-counter pain medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Low-impact exercise
  • Rest in limited quantities
  • Activity modification

Additionally, some patients choose to explore alternative therapies, such as chiropractic manipulation or acupuncture, to help with symptom relief. In many cases, conservative treatment options provide sufficient relief from symptoms of spinal narrowing.

Surgery at Laser Spine Institute

If pain and other symptoms continue to persist even after trying conservative treatment options, surgery may become an option. At Laser Spine Institute, we specialize in minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery that allows us to help thousands of patients find relief from chronic neck or back pain each year. To provide our patients with the best care possible, our team includes skilled and compassionate orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons.

Laser Spine Institute in Philadelphia offers minimally invasive surgical treatment options for individuals with spinal narrowing and other neck and back conditions. Contact us today to receive a no-cost MRI review* and find out if you’re a candidate for one of our outpatient procedures.