What Causes Spinal Stenosis?

Understanding the potential causes of various medical conditions can help protect your health for years to come. This is certainly true of back pain, which is one of the most prominent medical problems today. It affects an estimated eight out of 10 Americans at some point in life. 

Spinal stenosis is a common source of chronic back pain. It develops when the spinal canal narrows, often due to age-related changes in the spine. Working to prevent spinal stenosis can help preserve the condition of your spine so that you can remain mobile in the later stages of life. 

In this article, we’ll discuss spinal stenosis and its most common causes. 

Table of Contents

  • What is Spinal Stenosis of The Lumbar Region?
  • What Are The Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?
  • What Does Spinal Stenosis Feel Like?
  • How Common is Spinal Stenosis?
  • How to Prevent Spinal Stenosis?
  • What is The Surgery For Spinal Stenosis?
  • What is Spinal Stenosis of The Lumbar Region?

    Spinal stenosis is a tightening of the open space in the spinal canal. It’s known as lumbar spinal stenosis when it occurs in the lumbar spine (the lower portion of the spine).

    With less open space in the spinal canal, structures may start to compress spinal nerves and the spinal cord. Known as spinal nerve compression or impingement, this effect of spinal stenosis can lead to a range of symptoms, which we’ll discuss below. In mild cases of spinal stenosis that don’t involve nerve compression, patients may not experience any symptoms. 

    What Are The Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?

    Spinal stenosis can trigger a broad range of symptoms, including:

    • Persistent lower back pain
    • Neurological symptoms (numbness, weakness, and tingling) stemming from the lower back to the buttocks, thighs, and legs
    • Sciatica (burning pain that extends from the lower back to the buttocks and backs of the legs)
    • Foot drop (weakness in the foot that causes it to slap on the group while walking)

    In cases of severe spinal stenosis, patients may also have trouble with bladder and bowel control. If this occurs, patients should seek out emergency medical care, as it may be an indication of cauda equina syndrome.  

    What Does Spinal Stenosis Feel Like?

    Patients with lumbar spinal stenosis often explain that they experience increasing pressure in the lower back when they stand or walk for extended periods. They may need to lean forward to alleviate this pressure. 

    Additionally, spinal stenosis patients often experience a general sense of fatigue. This is likely because the body must exert additional energy to deal with the symptoms of spinal stenosis. 

    How Common is Spinal Stenosis?

    Spinal stenosis is a fairly common spinal condition. It’s worth noting that degenerative spinal stenosis is significantly more prevalent than congenital spinal stenosis, which results from genetic factors. Degenerative spinal stenosis simply results from age-related changes to the spine, including thickened spinal ligaments and intervertebral disc degeneration. 

    In one study, the prevalence of congenital lumbar spinal stenosis among U.S. patients was found to be 4.71% for relative stenosis and 2.62% for absolute stenosis. With relative stenosis, the anteroposterior (AP) dimension of the spinal canal shrinks to 12mm. With absolute stenosis, the AP dimension of the spinal canal shrinks to 10mm or less. 

    In the same study, the prevalence of relative acquired (degenerative) lumbar spinal stenosis among patients aged 60 to 69 was 47.2%. The prevalence of absolute degenerative lumbar stenosis in this age group was 19.4%. 

    How to Prevent Spinal Stenosis?

    Adults of all ages can implement many different strategies to prevent spinal stenosis, including:

    Practicing Good Posture

    Practicing good posture helps keep your spine properly aligned throughout the day. But, why exactly is it important to keep your spine aligned?

    When the vertebrae of the spine are stacked on top of each other in proper alignment, it limits the impact on the spinal tissues with various motions and activities. When the spine is out of alignment, the intervertebral discs and other structures will bear extra impact when you sit, stand, walk, or partake in other activities. 

    Over time, poor posture can speed up the natural process of spinal degeneration that occurs with age. So, practicing good posture can help ward off this degenerative process to protect your spine against spinal stenosis and related conditions. 

    Exercising Regularly. 

    Staying active is crucial for many different aspects of your health, including weight management, cardiovascular health, and muscle strength. But, did you know that it can also help prevent spinal stenosis?

    Low-impact forms of exercise like walking, cycling, and swimming help strengthen the muscles of the back that support the spine. Exercise also promotes flexibility, which can increase and maintain your range of motion to prevent stiffness. Additionally, exercise promotes circulation, helping to ensure that your spine receives the oxygen and nutrients that it needs for optimal health. 

    Keep in mind that high-impact exercises, like contact sports and running, present the risk of spinal injuries and aren’t advisable for patients with back pain.

    Sustaining a Healthy Weight.  

    Your weight affects the amount of impact that your spine must bear with every step. So, maintaining a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly can help reduce the strain on your spine. Over time, this will lower your risk of developing spinal conditions like spinal stenosis. 

    What is The Surgery For Spinal Stenosis?

    Premia Spine Testimonials

    Regain your mobility with Premia Spine! Contact us now

    Spinal stenosis may require surgery if conservative therapies fail after six to 12 months. Surgery for spinal stenosis typically involves laminectomy and spinal fusion

    A laminectomy is a form of spinal decompression surgery. In this procedure, some or all of the lamina, which comprises the back of the spinal canal, is removed to alleviate nerve compression.

    Spinal fusion has conventionally been done after spinal decompression to stabilize the spine. But, given that it limits spinal mobility and doesn’t always alleviate the patient’s back pain, alternative treatment methods have recently been developed. 

    The TOPS System is one spinal fusion alternative that creates a controlled range of spinal motion after laminectomy. Designed to be used for lumbar spinal stenosis and spondylolisthesis, this non-fusion implant can resolve pain and neurological symptoms without compromising spinal mobility. 

    If you’re suffering from symptoms of spinal stenosis, contact a spine specialist in your area to learn about your treatment options.