What is Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis explained by Denver, Golden, Aurora, Boulder, Broomfield, Jefferson, and Littleton Colorado’s top pain doctors

Spinal Stenosis DiagramSpinal stenosis is characterized by the thinning of the spinal column that causes peripheral nerve and spinal cord impingement. Decreased mobility and chronic pain is often experienced in the lower extremities as a result of this condition. At birth, spinal stenosis can often be detected as a congenital disorder, but it develops more often in older patients who have a degenerative disease. Having scoliosis or hypertension may also cause some individuals to be predisposed to spinal stenosis.

Symptoms such as having difficulty standing for extended periods, performing daily activities, or walking are typically reported by patients with spinal stenosis. Additional symptoms include cramping in the lower back, decreased mobility, and aching pain that may extend into the legs or thighs. Weakness or a loss of sensation in the lower extremities and bowel incontinence may also develop in more severe cases.

Causes of Spinal Stenosis

Spinal Stenosis MRIDegenerative arthritis, which is often the result of the gradual wear and tear of cartilage and muscles, is the main cause of spinal stenosis. This condition may also develop as a result of osteophytes or bone spurs, bulging intervertebral discs, or the thickening of the cervical spine (the neck), the soft spinal tissue between the vertebrae in the lower back, or the thoracic spine (the upper back).

If a person is born with a narrow spinal canal, then spinal stenosis may be diagnosed as a congenital condition. However, degenerative diseases are mostly responsible for the occurrence of spinal stenosis. Having an unbalanced gait, poor posture, being overweight, repeatedly overextending the spine, or having a history of back problems are additional factors that may lead to this condition. A family history of chronic back pain or spinal stenosis increases the risk of inheriting this disorder as well.

Treatments for Spinal Stenosis

A physician will normally ask patients about their medical history and after a physical examination of the spine and lower extremities, a patient’s level of sensation and mobility would be determined. In order to assess the severity of the spinal stenosis and subsequently administer a treatment plan, the patient would also be sent to do several tests such as an X-ray, CT scan, MRI, or an ultrasound.

Spinalcord StimulatorSeveral non-surgical forms of treatment may be recommended for patients with spinal stenosis. Initially, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioid medications may be prescribed as a daily form of treatment. Additionally, methods such as spinal cord stimulation, epidural steroid injections, and adhesiolysis have also afforded patients with relief from their symptoms.

Some patients prefer to utilize alternative methods in order to avoid taking medication.

Massage, yoga, acupuncture, and dietary changes are techniques that produce positive results for individuals with spinal stenosis. These types of therapies are especially beneficial for patients who cannot undergo a surgical procedure because of an existing condition.

If the spinal stenosis is severe, surgery may be recommended, especially if all other forms of treatment have proven to be ineffective. Surgery is generally an optimal option for patients who are suffering from decreased sensation in the extremities, a loss of bowel and bladder function, and severe pain. Treating spinal stenosis through surgery is generally painful and invasive, but is typically necessary because of the inflammation and pressure on the spinal cord that this condition causes.


Spinal Stenosis LocationSpinal stenosis is a disorder that is the result of the thinning of the spinal column. The narrowing of the column causesperipheral nerve and spinal cord impingement. Spinal stenosis may be congenital, but degenerative diseases such as arthritis are the main cause of this condition. Common symptoms include trouble standing, walking, and performing daily activities. An aching pain, weakness or a loss of sensation, and cramping in the extremities may also occur. Clinical studies indicate that non-surgical treatments such as acupuncture, epidural steroid injections, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are successful for most patients. When conservative treatments are ineffective or the symptoms are severe and chronic, a physician may recommend surgery.

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