Causes of Spinal Stenosis

What is spinal stenosis? Read on to learn more about spinal stenosis, spinal stenosis causes, its symptoms, and treatment options.

Table of Contents

What Is Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis, also called spinal narrowing, compresses the spinal cord, narrowing one or more of the spaces in your spine. The spinal cord or nerves can become irritated when this happens, leading to back pain and sciatica.1

 

 

There are two types of spinal stenosis: lumbar spinal stenosis and cervical spinal stenosis. Lumbar stenosis is concentrated in the lower back and tends to affect peripheral nerves and nerve roots, such as the sciatic nerve, leading back pain, and leg pain. Cervical stenosis, or stenosis of the neck, can be more severe as it can directly affect the spinal cord. This article will discuss the symptoms of spinal stenosis, spinal stenosis causes, and treatment options.

Spinal Stenosis Symptoms

If you have spinal stenosis, you may have issues walking for long periods, or you may need to lean forward to ease pain or pressure on your back. You may also have leg numbness and in more severe spinal stenosis cases, difficulty in controlling the bladder and bowels.2

 

In cervical spinal stenosis or stenosis of the neck, you may experience neck pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the hand, arm, or leg. You may also experience a decreased function of the hands and wrists and struggle to do things like write or button shirts.

 

With lumbar spinal stenosis, the symptoms may be more focused on the lower back, with pain and numbness in the legs, feet, and lower back. You may experience a heavy feeling in the legs, leading to cramping in one or both legs.

Additional Spinal Stenosis Symptoms

Other symptoms of spinal stenosis, both cervical and lumbar, include:

Sciatica 

This is a type of burning pain extending from the back, buttocks, and into the legs.

Foot Drop

This is a weakness of the foot that causes it to slant down when walking.

Difficulties Standing or Walking

This may sometimes cause a disadvantage.

Radicular Pain

This is a type of pain that radiates from your spine into your back, hips, and legs.

Radiculopathy

This is a disease of the root of a nerve from a tumor or pinched nerve.

Myelopathy

This is an injury to the spinal cord due to compression from congenital stenosis, trauma, degenerative disease, or disc herniation.

Cauda Equina Syndrome

This is a rare disorder causing compression in the spinal nerve roots, leading to lower extremity weakness, cutting off sensation and movement.

Many people describe spinal stenosis symptoms as “coming and going” rather than constant; additionally, pain can be relieved by sitting or lying down. Certain activities or positions (like biking, walking, and standing up straight) can increase pain.3

Spinal Stenosis Causes

Spinal Stenosis Causes

The most common cause of spinal stenosis is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis refers to the natural, gradual wear and tear that happens to joints over time. Osteoarthritis typically begins to affect individuals’ backs by age 50; therefore, most people with spinal stenosis are over the age of 50.4

Other than osteoarthritis, other spinal stenosis causes include:

  • Overgrowth of bone
  • Herniated disks
  • Thickened ligaments
  • Tumors
  • Spinal injuries
If you exhibit spinal stenosis symptoms, it’s important to work with your doctor to discover the cause and work out a treatment plan.

Spinal Stenosis Diagnosis and Tests

There are several ways to test for and diagnose stenosis of the spine but diagnoses typically follow a similar process. 

 

Medical History Review

You and your doctor will carefully review and discuss your medical history, going over potential signs and symptoms you have experienced recently or in the past. This helps to narrow the list of possible causes. A physical examination will often follow this step.

 

X-Rays

Though a physical exam and a medical history review can suggest spine stenosis, medical imaging is necessary to confirm a diagnosis. X-rays can show bone growths called spurs that can push on nerves and narrow the spinal canal.

 

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

An MRI is the most common imaging test used to diagnose spinal stenosis. An MRI can show the spinal canal narrowing, indicating cervical spinal stenosis or lumbar spinal stenosis. 

 

Computerized Tomography (CT Scan)

While MRIs are more common, CT scans can also be utilized to give a more detailed look at the spinal canal and spinal structures. 

Spinal Stenosis Complications

Living with spinal stenosis can be challenging, but treatment interventions can make the condition much more manageable. However, left untreated, severe spinal stenosis may lead to permanent problems, such as:
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Problems with balance and coordination
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control
Paralysis is also possible, but it is rare. Compression of the spine typically leads to pain and temporary numbness, but permanent loss of sensation and paralysis can happen because of severe stenosis.5

Spinal Stenosis and Walking Problems

A major issue associated with spinal stenosis is its effect on one’s ability to walk. Whether you have mild central canal stenosis or severe spinal stenosis, the pain associated with the condition can make movement and walking difficult. Spinal stenosis and walking problems can interfere with daily life, reducing mobility and lessening the quality of life. Less movement can not only prevent you from participating in your usual activities, but it can also cause additional health issues. Because of this, it’s important to seek treatment to relieve symptoms. 

Get Treatment for Spinal Stenosis at J. Flowers Health Institute

It is often said that the best treatments for spinal stenosis are the simplest ones: gentle exercise and over-the-counter medications to relieve symptoms. Other treatments for spinal stenosis include prescription medications, injections like steroids and nerve blocks, physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and surgery.6

 

Spinal stenosis exercises to avoid include high-impact exercises, free weights, and standing stretches; instead, swimming, cycling, weight machines, and lying-down stretches can be gentler ways to improve symptoms.

What We Do For You

Spinal stenosis can be a painful and challenging condition to live with, but there are many ways to improve your symptoms. At J. Flowers Health Institute, we provide high-quality, holistic treatments that focus on your physical pain and mental side effects that you may be dealing with. Treatment for your chronic pain is tailored to suit your unique needs, and our team is committed to finding root causes and illuminating your path to wellness. Don’t let spinal stenosis take over your life. Learn more about how J. Flowers Health Institute can help you.