Conditions Treated

Spinal Stenosis

The term “stenosis” comes from the Greek word meaning “narrowing”. In medicine it is frequently used to refer to conditions that narrow a passage. In the spine we use the term to describe conditions that result in narrowing of the passage for nerves or spinal cord. The narrowing itself is usually a combination of degenerative conditions that affect the spine. A subgroup of individuals has congenital spinal stenosis. These people are very susceptible to develop symptoms with even small amounts of degeneration. The tissues that degenerate and result in the narrowing are usually the discs, the facet joints, and the ligaments, which are in close proximity to the neural structures.

Narrowing of the spinal canal may result in nerve compression and a constellation of symptoms. The typical symptom is increased pain in the legs with walking, which can significantly diminish one's activity level. Patients with lumbar spinal stenosis are typically comfortable at rest but cannot walk far without developing leg pain. Pain relief is achieved when they sit down again. Some people note that leg pain improves with bending forward at the waist, and they especially like leaning over a shopping cart. This is because bending forward creates more room for the nerves.

For most people, symptoms of lumbar stenosis will typically fluctuate, with some periods of more severe symptoms and some with fewer or none, but symptoms are not always progressive over time. For each person, the severity and duration of lumbar stenosis symptoms is different and often dictates whether conservative treatment or lumbar spinal stenosis surgery is more suitable.

Surgery for spinal stenosis involves decompression of the nerves. This is achieved by removing all of the offending structures. At times decompression may be performed together with a spinal fusion if spinal instability is also present.

Spinal Stenosis

The spinal canal is outlined in red. On the left you see a narrowed spinal canal compared to a normal sized canal on the right.

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