Spinal Stenosis

On this site, you will learn general information on the spine, the exact definition of spinal stenosis, the many different types of spinal stenosis, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments.

General Information about your Spine
In order to fully understand the information provided on this site for spinal stenosis, it is important to understand the anatomy of the spine.  The spine is delicate, yet strong.  It is simple, yet complex.  The normal anatomy of your spine is generally divided up into three major sections.   These sections include:

  • Cervical
  • Thoracic
  • Lumbar

Each of these sections is made up of individual bones that are called vertebrae.   Each individual vertebra is made up of several parts.   The body of the vertebra is the primary source for weight bearing.   It acts as a resting spot for the fibrous discs that separate each of the vertebrae.  The lamina covers the spinal canal, which is the large hole in the center of the vertebra.  The spinal canal is where the spinal nerves pass.   The spinal canal is the primary area affected.

With each vertebra, there are four facet joints.  There are two that face upward and two that face downward.  They interlock with the adjacent vertebrae which provide stability for your spine.    Facet joints are sometimes part of the cause for spinal stenosis.

Your vertebrae are separated by intervertebral discs.  These discs act as cushions between your bones.    These discs are made up of two parts, which are the annulus and the nucleus.  The annulus is the tough outer layer that surrounds the nucleus or the center.  Spinal stenosis can sometimes be the result of a herniated or ruptured disc.

What is Spinal Stenosis?

While there is a basic definition for spinal stenosis, there are different specific definitions for it due to the different locations within the spinal canal that this can occur.  The basic definition is the narrowing of the spinal canal and the compression of the spinal cords and nerves.   On this site, you will learn in depth the different types and how they affect your health.   Each type has its own symptoms and causes; however, there are a lot of similarities in causes and symptoms between them.

Who Gets Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis not only affects women, but it also affects men equally.  It is generally seen in older people; however, anyone can develop it.  Those who have labor intensive careers are more prone to suffer from spinal stenosis.   People under the age of 30 rarely develop it unless they have suffered a traumatic injury to the spinal column.

How is Spinal Stenosis Diagnosed?

In order for you to be diagnosed, a number of tests must be performed.   Your doctor may suspect due to your symptoms.  Once it is suspected, a complete evaluation of your spine will be conducted.  This process usually starts with a medical history and physical examination.  The medical history portion of this evaluation is when you will tell your doctor about your symptoms and where these symptoms exist.  This will help your doctor determine where the nerve compression exists.

The physical examination will involve imaging studies, such as:

  • X-Ray
  • Myelogram
  • CT Scan
  • MRI
  • Bone Scan

An x-ray is the simplest tool.  It can show your doctor the bones of your spine and can help your doctor determine the cause of your pain.  An x-ray can show tumors, traumatic injury, inherited abnormalities, and spinal arthritis.

The Myelogram is also an x-ray that involves an injection into the spinal fluid that is located around the spinal cord and nerves.  This dye will show up on the x-ray around these nerves unless there is no space. This test is not as commonly performed because of the MRI; however, it can be useful when people are not able to have an MRI.

A CT scan or computed tomography scan is similar to an x-ray; however, it gives a better view of tissues in your body and a better view of the areas of compression within your spinal canal.  This is because more structures can show up on a CT scan.

MRI or magnetic resonance imaging is one of the most popular tools being used to diagnose spinal stenosis.  In an MRI, magnetic signals produce images of the spine.  An MRI can show many more structures than an x-ray, such as:  muscles, ligaments, and nerves.

A bone scan is not as commonly used for diagnosing spinal stenosis, but is a possibility.  A bone scan involves injecting radioactive material into your vein.   This material attracts to areas of high bone activity.  This test is used where there is a concern for fractures, infections, tumors, or other causes of spinal stenosis.

What are the Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?

There are different symptoms depending on the area where the spinal canal is narrowed or where the spinal cord and nerves are being compressed.    Any discomfort and/or pain you may experience may come and go at first.  This discomfort and/or pain will likely then become more chronic and intense if it is truly spinal stenosis.

On this site, you will learn the specific symptoms to look for so that you can determine whether spinal stenosis is a possibility.  If you have any of these symptoms, it is in your best interest to contact a doctor for proper diagnosis and for advice on how to manage your symptoms.

What are the Causes of Spinal Stenosis?

There are many different health issues that can reduce the space within your spinal canal.  Generally, these causes are a result of degeneration and the aging process.  On this site, you will learn the common age-related causes, as well as more serious problems that can cause spinal stenosis.

What are the Treatments for Spinal Stenosis?

Treatment generally begins with more conservative options, such as finding ways to alleviate the pain and symptoms of spinal stenosis.  The type and amount of pain relief you will receive will depend on the severity of your condition, your physical condition, and your commitment to the treatment plan.

After conservative treatments have been exhausted and the pain continues, there are more aggressive treatments that can be considered.  This could include surgery, implants, and fusions.   On this site, you will learn more in depth information on the different options available to you.

This site is to be used as a general source of information for spinal stenosis.  If you suspect spinal stenosis, it is critical that you contact a qualified medical professional for a more accurate diagnosis and for further information.

6 Responses to Spinal Stenosis

  1. Jason Haugen says:

    Looking for home remedies, stretches, precautions, etc. I’m a carpenter supporting my small family of 4 with no insurance and cannot afford comprehensive work to be done at this time. Please help me learn ways to alleviate my pain and get back on track. All my discomfort resides in my lumbar section. I believe I also carry my stress in this area. Thank you.

    • Tracy Brand says:

      I have been diagnosed with this and apparently an epidural injection is an option. I am unable to walk but for the pain i use heated back wraps low down during the day and leave them on at night sometimes. I also put a pillow between my legs when sleeping. I find that Solpodeine takes the edge off the pain but doesn’t interfere with my concentration/thoughts etc. like NSAIDS do. Bending over things is not good and reaching up is also bad so unsure how you can do carpentry comfortably. Probably best to work at eye level if possible. When you get home avoid sitting upright for very long as all the weight goes through the lumber. Try and lie flat every now and then, even if just for 10 mins. Lying on side with knees bent up in front helps open space between discs. These things work for me but everyone is different.

  2. annie mclemore says:

    i have been diagnosed with spinal stenosis along with osteoarthritis and i can hardly put my own underwear on, my husband has to help me get dressed. im 58 years old and i can hardly get outta bed.

  3. jean true says:

    i am 38 years old the pain is so intence has paralized my lower half of body
    i am not sure of why yet i have this ishue i am addopted seaking medical info as i would be told family medical history i live in canada i have has number of falls acidents hit by a car i often land right on my back so time shall tell thanks for the information jean true

    • John says:

      I am sorry to hear of your issue with this crippling condition. Sciatica & severe back pain is debilitating. Putting clothes on… painful. Breathing, coughing, everything is excruciating.
      My issues started 7 years during a deployment. I had several incidents happen very close together, the final blow came when I fell from a large army truck and hit concrete on my butt. The military denied I was ever hurt so I was never able to get any care. In fact, after nearly 7 years I am now being treated, but, have to go through all the VA hurdles, first disbelief from doctors, then finally x-rays, then MRI, physical therapy, then 1st epidural steroid injection, 2nd epidural injection, gabapentin 1×300 a day, then 1×300 3 times a day, now 3×300 3 times a day. no releif from the sciatica. My legs collapse, never know when, walking standing, reaching over my head…all bad. Sitting, laying…bad…sometimes laying on side with knees drawn up & something between the knees reduces the pain. I live alone except for the times my younger children are with me, getting more difficult to be a dad. I am slightly over 50, my back is very muscular, so when the doctors claim my issue is from old age, well?

  4. Ric Hampton says:

    I can’t stand for more than 3minutes. It has effected my walking. I do believe that I have had this back problem since I was a kid? I’t came more painful when I fell on the direct area lumbar. That is when I noticed more of the pain. Doctors have told me loose weight and I have lost about 120 lbs since Augest of 2011. My back is still the same. I know that because I was 310 lbs solid from bodybuilding/powerlifting in 2006. So I know for a fact that the weight is not total to blame

Leave a Reply