Is Spinal Stenosis Hereditary?

With a family history of any medical condition, it’s natural to worry that you’ll eventually develop the condition. This goes for spinal conditions, including spinal stenosis, which affects an estimated 250,000 to 500,00 residents of the United States. 

Table of Contents

  • Does Everyone Get Spinal Stenosis With Age?
  • How Does The Spine Change With Age?
  • Who is Prone To Spinal Stenosis?
  • Will I Have Spinal Stenosis If My Parents Have It?
  • What is The Final Outcome of Spinal Stenosis?
  • What is The Newest Treatment For Spinal Stenosis?
  • But, is spinal stenosis hereditary? Can you inherit it from your parents? In this article, we’ll address these common questions to resolve concerns surrounding your risk of developing spinal stenosis. 

    Does Everyone Get Spinal Stenosis With Age?

    Almost everyone will get spinal stenosis with age. This is because it tends to develop as a result of the natural effects of aging on the spine. However, this doesn’t mean that everyone will require spinal surgery at some point. 

    Spinal stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal. For many patients, this process leads to nerve compression, which triggers pain and neurological symptoms. However, if the narrowed spinal canal doesn’t cause nerve impingement, the patient may be asymptomatic. 

    How Does The Spine Change With Age?

    The spine undergoes a variety of changes during the aging process, including:

    Cartilage Degeneration

    For one, the cartilage that protects the facet joints wears down over time. When this occurs, the bones rub against one another, leading to pain and inflammation. 

    As the cartilage degenerates with age, patients may develop bone spurs. Bone spurs are the body’s response to friction between bones, and they can take up space within the spinal canal, leading to spinal stenosis. 

    Disc Degeneration

    Another effect of aging on the spine is disc degeneration. A cushion-like disc is located between each vertebra of the spine. This disc absorbs impact to prevent damage to the spinal structures. 

    Unfortunately, the aging process causes the intervertebral discs to wear down, becoming thinner and drier. Eventually, this may cause the disc to bulge, herniate, or rupture. A damaged intervertebral disc can extend into the spinal canal and cause spinal stenosis.  

    Thickened Ligaments

    Ligaments are coarse bands of tissue that connect bone to bone. The ligaments of the spine work with tendons and muscles to keep the spine stable. 

    With age, the ligaments of the spine can become thicker, especially in patients with arthritis. Thickened spinal ligaments may bulge into the spinal canal and cause spinal stenosis. 

    Who is Prone To Spinal Stenosis?

    Various factors may make certain people more prone to spinal stenosis than others. These factors include:

    • Age

    As discussed in the previous section, the natural aging process often leads to spinal stenosis. So, people over the age of 50 are more prone to spinal stenosis than younger individuals. 

    • Gender

    Women are more prone to spinal stenosis than men. Though the exact reasons for this risk factor are uncertain, experts think it may be linked to pregnancy, structural pelvic differences, and female hormone levels. 

    • Genetic factors

    Some people are born with a narrower spinal canal than others. A naturally narrow spinal canal makes you more likely to develop spinal stenosis, especially when it’s combined with other risk factors. 

    • Other spinal conditions

    Patients with a preexisting spinal condition, such as scoliosis or a spinal injury, have a higher risk of developing spinal stenosis. Trauma to the spine triggers the body’s natural repair process, which involves inflammation. If the spinal injury isn’t properly treated, the swelling can become chronic and may compromise the space in the spinal canal, leading to stenosis. 

    Will I Have Spinal Stenosis If My Parents Have It?

    You won’t necessarily have spinal stenosis if your parents have it. The condition isn’t thought to be inheritable, though genetic factors can influence your risk of developing spinal stenosis. 

    A 2015 study evaluated the influence of genetic factors compared to environmental factors for lumbar spinal stenosis. It concluded that lumbar spinal stenosis is highly genetic and disc degeneration is one way in which genetics can affect spinal stenosis. 

    How Long Can I Live With Spinal Stenosis?

    You can live with spinal stenosis for the rest of your life. This spinal condition isn’t life-threatening, although it may be disabling in its severe forms. 

    With this in mind, if spinal stenosis is left untreated, it can lead to serious, potentially-permanent nerve injury. One form of nerve injury that may result from lumbar spinal stenosis is cauda equina syndrome, which occurs when all of the nerves in the lower spine become compressed. If cauda equina syndrome isn’t properly treated, it can lead to permanent paralysis in one or both legs and permanent loss of bowel or bladder control. 

    Seek out immediate medical attention if you’ve been diagnosed with spinal stenosis and experience any of the following signs of cauda equina syndrome:

    • Severe lower back pain
    • Saddle anesthesia, which is loss of sensation in the buttocks, perineum, and inner thighs
    • Loss of bladder or bowel control
    • Loss of sensation in both legs
    • Loss of motor function in both legs
    • Lost or reduced reflexes

    What is The Final Outcome of Spinal Stenosis?

    The final outcome of spinal stenosis depends on the severity of the condition, the treatment plan, and how soon the patient sought out treatment. 

    The Outcome of Spinal Stenosis With Non-Surgical Treatment

    For some patients, non-surgical therapies fully resolve spinal stenosis. This is often the case when spinal stenosis is addressed in its early stages. Treatments that may help patients recover from spinal stenosis without surgery include:

    • Physical therapy
    • Rest and lifestyle modifications
    • Anti-inflammatory medication
    • Chiropractic care
    • Acupuncture 
    • Massage therapy
    • Epidural steroid injections

    For patients who improve with non-invasive treatments, it’s crucial to keep up with spinal care recommendations, such as maintaining proper posture, investing in a supportive desk chair, staying active, and avoiding activities that strain the spine

    The Outcome of Spinal Stenosis With Surgical Treatment

    Patients who don’t recover after six to 12 months of non-surgical spinal stenosis treatment may need surgery for symptom relief. Thankfully, decompression surgery generally provides good outcomes for spinal stenosis patients, offering long-term relief from back pain and neurological symptoms. 

    Decompression surgery for spinal stenosis involves alleviating nerve compression by creating more space in the spinal canal. This is most commonly achieved with a laminectomy. This form of decompression surgery involves removing a small portion of the lamina (the roof of the spinal canal) to open up the spinal canal. 

    Oftentimes, surgeons perform spinal fusion with decompression surgery to avoid spinal instability. Fusion involves permanently merging the affected vertebrae with bone graft material. This eradicates all motion at the targeted segment. 

    Unfortunately, spinal fusion can lead to mobility restrictions in spinal stenosis patients. This, combined with the risk of adjacent segment degeneration, can compromise the outcome of surgical spinal stenosis treatment. 

    What is The Newest Treatment For Spinal Stenosis?

    The newest treatment for spinal stenosis is minimally-invasive spine surgery with the TOPS System. This device has long been used abroad to restore mobility and resolve symptoms in spinal stenosis patients. But, it’s only beginning to gain prominence in the United States as a safe, effective alternative to spinal fusion surgery. 

    Say goodbye to spinal problems starting Now!

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    The TOPS System is a dynamic spinal implant that creates a controlled range of motion in the spine. It’s designed to treat lumbar spinal stenosis and spondylolisthesis. Unlike spinal fusion, the TOPS System allows patients to recover quickly after surgery and regain the ability to move the spine in all directions without the risk of instability. 

    Contact a specialist in your area to learn more about spinal stenosis and the latest innovations available to treat it.