Beejal Y. Amin MD

4 Primary Causes of Spinal Stenosis and How It Is Treated

Jun 30, 2022

4 Primary Causes of Spinal Stenosis and How It Is Treated

Back and neck pain can keep you up at night and prevent you from enjoying everyday activities. Read on to learn whether your back and neck pain may be caused by spinal stenosis.

If you have back pain and had to call out from work, make an urgent visit to your doctor, or cancel a night out with friends, you’re not alone. Remarkably, an estimated 50% - 80% of the population may suffer a bout of back pain at some time in their lifetime. It ranks as one of the most common reasons for missing work and the third most common reason for doctor’s visits.

 If you are 50 or older, your chances of developing back pain are even higher. A whopping 95% of the general population experience degenerative changes in the spine by around 50. Many people over 60 experience spinal stenosis, a common cause of back pain. 

Board-certified neurosurgeon Beejal Y. Amin, MD, FAANS, supports patients with spine disorders throughout the Oak Lawn, South Holland, and Orland Park areas of Illinois. In this blog, he takes a deep dive into spinal stenosis, the four most common causes, and how you can get relief.

What is spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is a condition that occurs over time when the spaces in the spine become narrower and put pressure on nerve roots and the spinal cord. This leads to increased compression throughout your spine. 

There are two basic types of spinal stenosis: lumbar stenosis and cervical stenosis. 

Lumbar stenosis

The most common type of stenosis, lumbar stenosis is a lower back malady that occurs in one or more of the five vertebrae in the lower region of the spine. Lumbar spinal stenosis triggers compression of the nerves that run from the lower back to the legs.   

Cervical stenosis

With cervical stenosis, narrowing, compression, and nerve sensitivity occur in the neck region of the spine. This usually takes place in one of the seven vertebrae at the top of your spine. 

Causes of spinal stenosis

Although the exact cause varies from patient to patient, spinal stenosis is often caused by conditions such as osteoarthritis, herniated discs and bone spurs, thickened ligaments, and spinal injuries. 

1. Osteoarthritis and bone spurs

Normal wear-and-tear from aging can lead to osteoarthritis, the most prevalent form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis can cause a bone overgrowth called a bone spur, which can form into the spinal canal and narrow it. 

2. Herniated discs

Sometimes called a bulged or slipped disc, a herniated disc occurs when the shock-absorbing discs between the vertebrae get damaged or pushed out of place. The inner material of your disc can then leak out and cause spinal stenosis by pressing on the spinal cord or nerves. 

3. Thickened ligaments

Ligaments are fibers that stabilize and hold together the spine. They can thicken over time due to arthritis and protrude into the spinal canal space.

4. Spinal injuries 

Spinal injuries due to accidents or trauma can lead to fractured or dislocated vertebrae. This dislocated bone can narrow the spinal canal while swelling and inflammation can also put pressure on the spine. 

Spinal stenosis treatments 

Typically, treating spinal stenosis starts with conservative means like rest, stretching, and physical therapy. Other treatments seek to address the compression and pain by tackling the inflammation. These treatment modalities include anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, nerve blocks, and epidural steroid injections.

Minimally invasive surgical options 

When conservative treatment options fall short, our highly skilled team first turns to minimally invasive spine surgery, also known as MISS. We prefer MISS because it results in less tissue damage and less pain, promoting faster recovery.  

Decompression surgery

In cases when non-surgical or MISS treatments aren’t enough, your doctor may turn to open decompression surgery. The ultimate goal of decompression surgery is to create additional space within the spinal canal thereby relieving pressure on the nerve roots or spinal cord.  

Similarly, another surgical option is disc replacement surgery. Disc replacement surgery may be an option for cases of spinal stenosis caused by herniated discs in the neck.

If you have neck or back pain and want to learn more about your treatment options, call 708-684-4029 to book an appointment with Dr. Amin today.