Spinal Narrowing – An Overview

What is Spiral Narrowing

Spinal narrowing, also known as spinal stenosis, can occur due to a variety of factors. This includes injury to the spine, overuse of the neck and back, an inherited condition, or age-related degeneration. A number of issues can reduce the size of the spinal canal that encases the spinal cord, or of the openings, known as foramina, that allow nerve roots to exit the spinal column. 

Spine conditions that can crowd spaces in the spine include bone spurs, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, and others. Spinal narrowing typically does not exhibit symptoms. However, the restricted space can lead to irritation or compression of a nerve root or the spinal cord. 

Whether you have been diagnosed with this spine condition or are researching the potential causes of your neck or back pain, it is important to educate yourself as a patient. The following information about spinal narrowing can help you better work with your doctor to find lasting relief. 

Who is at Risk for Spinal Narrowing?

Although a neck or back injury can cause spinal stenosis in people of any age, it is typically found in older patients. This is because the spinal anatomy is subjected to a wide range of stress-inducing movements over time. 

The vertebrae, discs, ligaments, muscles, and joints of the spine naturally begin to wear down and compress, and issues such as bone spurs, herniated discs, and hardened ligaments are fairly common results. This natural deterioration tends to contribute directly to the narrowing of the spinal column. Some common risk factors for developing spinal stenosis include:

  • Genetics
  • Age
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Injury history

Common Symptoms

Not all individuals will experience symptoms. In fact, unless the spinal canal or foramina becomes so narrow that it starts to compress the spinal cord or one of the nerves that branch out of it, the narrowing can go undetected for years. 

However, if the spinal canal narrows to the point of the spinal cord or nerve root compression, a person might experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Localized pain
  • Radiating pain
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Sciatica

Patients who do experience these spinal narrowing symptoms should meet with their primary care physician for individualized recommendations for spinal narrowing treatment. 

Your Treatment Options

Typically, patients manage symptoms with conservative treatments which can provide lasting relief for many patients dealing with these spine conditions. These conservative options include:

  • Medications
  • Exercise
  • Physical therapy
  • Rest and lifestyle modifications

Some patients also pursue alternative therapies, such as chiropractic care, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, and therapeutic massage. When provided by a reputable practitioner, these options can help supplement a patient’s conservative spinal narrowing treatment plan. However, while alternative and conservative treatments can provide short-term pain relief, these options cannot prevent or reverse spinal narrowing. If a patient’s condition continues to get worse – or their spinal narrowing symptoms continue to progress – surgery may be necessary to create additional space in the spinal canal. 

When to Consider Surgery

If chronic neck or back pain persists despite exhaustive conservative treatment, surgery may become an option. Moreover, a surgeon will evaluate each patient’s spine condition to determine if an operation is the best option for creating more space in the spinal canal or decompressing an affected nerve. 

At BEST Health System, we provide minimally invasive spine surgery for patients with spinal narrowing. We perform our procedures on an outpatient basis. Which have many advantages over traditional open neck or back operations, including a reduced risk of complications and a shorter recovery period. 

BEST Health System offers several different techniques, depending on the location and severity of the patient’s spinal stenosis and a number of other personal factors. To learn about the many advantages of our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures, which are performed with state-of-the-art technology, contact BEST today