What Is Spinal Stenosis?

Learn about the symptoms and treatment options for spinal stenosis.

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[MUSIC PLAYING] The bones of the spine are put together in such a way so that there is an opening right down the center which houses the spinal cord. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of that opening which causes pressure on the spinal cord. Spinal stenosis also refers to the narrowing of the openings all along the spine where nerves from the rest of the body connect to the spinal cord. This pressure can produce a variety of symptoms, including pain, numbness, paresthesia, and loss of motor control. Approximately 75% of spinal stenosis cases occur in the lower back, which often affects the sciatic nerves causing a condition commonly known as sciatica. All types are treatable. I call spinal stenosis the silent disease. It essentially has very little symptomatology associated with it. The primary thing that I see with stenosis is that a patient will tell me that they're having difficulty walking. And it's hard for a patient to describe sometime, but as they try to walk, their legs feel heavy, they feel like wood or lead, they don't want to move. They may not necessarily hurt, but they don't seem to want to function properly. And when a patient tells me that then spinal stenosis is certainly one of the first things I'm going to think of. Treatment options for spinal stenosis are typically surgical. When somebody has a degenerative condition that narrows space around the nerves or the spinal cord, enough where it's symptomatic enough to lead the patient to come to see me, then typically we're going to look at a surgical option to treat or open up that spinal stenosis. The most common procedure would be a laminectomy or a laminotomy where bone is removed from around the nerves or around the spinal cord to make room so that there's no more pressure to the nerves or the spinal cord. [MUSIC PLAYING]

Learn about the symptoms and treatment options for spinal stenosis.


Stenosis is a Greek word that means narrowing. In medicine, stenosis is the abnormal narrowing of a passage in the body. Spinal stenosis specifically refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal.


The spinal cord and nerves are surrounded by bones (vertebrae) and ligaments (the dense bands of connective tissue that connect bones to other bones to form joints). In a normal spine, these surrounding structures provide comfortable canals in which the spinal cord and nerves live. When the bones and ligaments are damaged because of a disease or trauma, they can compete for the spaces in the spine. It’s no longer a cozy space when overgrown bones, displaced discs or thick ligaments take up residence in the canals. 


These unwanted guests can put pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves responsible for sending signals to the arms and legs, causing discomfort and, in some cases, pain.

What Causes Spinal Stenosis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) – is a common cause of spinal stenosis. Previous injuries, overuse and genetics play a large role in how well our joints fare as we age, and how prone we are to developing OA, or degenerative joint disease. Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition of the joints, and typically occurs in the lower back and neck. As OA worsens, the vertebrae in the back and neck may break down and develop growths called bone spurs. These growths can move into the spinal canal. 


Although OA can occur in people of all ages, it’s most common in older people.


Paget’s Disease – This bone disease is an excessive breakdown and formation of bone replacement, and can cause pain and fractures.


Herniated Disc – When vertebral disc dehydrates and stiffens or is damaged, the jelly-like inner-core (the nucleus pulposus) can herniate, or protrude from, the protective surrounding it to inflame the nerve roots. 


Ligaments – When the tough band of ligaments that hold the bones together thicken, they can bulge into the spinal canal, pinching the spinal cord and nerves.


Tumors – Abnormal growths that form inside the spaces within the spine can affect the spinal nerves and cord.


Spinal Injuries – A car accident, a sports injury or a fall can cause dislocations and fractures of one or more vertebrae. The displaced bones and bone fragments can damage the contents of the spinal canal.

What You May Be Feeling

Neck Pain

Neck pains



Pain In Extremities

Pain In Extremities

Leg Numbness

Leg Numbness

Back Pain

Back Pain

Leg Weakness

Leg Weakness


When the spinal cord and nerves become compressed or pinched, a variety of symptoms may emerge in response. Symptoms commonly associated with Spinal Stenosis are back pain, neck pain, tingling, pain in the extremities, leg numbness and leg weakness.


In extremely rare cases a herniated disc in the lower back can compress the cauda equina. The cauda equina is a bundle of spinal nerves and nerve roots that send signals to the pelvic organs and lower limbs. People with cauda equina syndrome may experience bladder control issues, sexual function problems and leg paralysis. 

Potential Thinning Disc Treatment Options


A laminectomy is a very common procedure that removes a portion of what is known as the lamina (which is the back part of the vertebra that covers the spinal canal) in order to create space in the area affected by the bulging disc.


A laminotomy is a spinal decompression surgery where only a very small portion of the lamina is removed to take pressure off the nerves and spinal cord for pain relief.


When the disc compresses the spinal cord or nerve root, replacement can be an option. The disc is replaced with an artificial disc to decompress the cord or nerves and preserve motion at the disc space.

Anterior Cervical Disc Fusion (ACDF)

During an ACDF, the damaged disc in the neck is removed, relieving pain and pressure. Then a reinforced implant takes its place, providing stability.


During a lumbar fusion the damaged disc is removed from the lower back (lumbar spine), and the two vertebrae are fused together with a reinforced implant to create support.

Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)

Also known as an RFA, this procedure uses high-energy radio frequency to ablate (or remove/vaporize) the troubled nerve, essentially eliminating the sensation of pain.

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We're sorry to interrupt, but we know a fear of surgery can hold some people back. 70% of the patients who come to BioSpine are sucessfully treated without surgery. The first step is understanding what is casuing your pain - take that step and schedule a consultation. It's that easy.
We're sorry to interrupt, but we know a fear of surgery can hold some people back. 70% of the patients who come to BioSpine are sucessfully treated without surgery. The first step is understanding what is casuing your pain - take that step and schedule a consultation. It's that easy.
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