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What Is Stenosis? Abnormal Narrowing in the Spine

What is stenosisIf you have been suffering from neck or back pain that does not seem to be going away after a few days, there may be something more serious than a strained muscle or sprained ligament in your spine. You may have developed a chronic or degenerative condition that requires the attention of a doctor. One possible cause of pain in your neck or back is spinal stenosis, which is the narrowing (“stenosis”) of the spinal canal.

Stenosis, or abnormal narrowing, can happen in any tube-like structure in the body, and the spinal column is a frequent place for stenosis to be diagnosed. A variety of spine conditions can cause spinal stenosis, from a herniated disc that developed due to wear and tear, to spondylolisthesis that arose because of a hairline vertebral fracture.


These types of anatomical abnormalities can intrude on the space of the spinal canal and exert pressure on nearby spinal nerve roots or the spinal cord, possibly causing symptoms of radiculopathy and myelopathy, respectively. If you are experiencing pain, tingling, or muscle weakness in your back, neck, and/or upper or lower extremities, there is a good chance that a neural structure is being compressed. However, the bottom line is that you must consult a doctor in order to get a proper diagnosis before beginning any treatments on your own. You physician will be able to determine the underlying cause of your discomfort, prescribe a safe treatment regimen that is tailored to your unique needs, and, if spinal stenosis is the culprit, he or she can answer the question “What is stenosis?” in detail.

All doctors will have their own diagnostic processes, but most will follow a standard formula when it comes to diagnosing spinal stenosis. At your consultation, you can expect:

  • A physical exam – Your doctor may palpate your spine to check for areas of tenderness or swelling. He or she may also ask you to perform some movements to gauge your strength, flexibility, reflexes, and range of motion.
  • A review of your medical history – This will involve a review of both your personal medical history and your familial history. Many patients have a genetic predisposition to degenerative conditions like spinal stenosis.
  • An evaluation of your symptoms – This may be the most important part of the diagnostic process. Be sure to describe your spinal stenosis symptoms in as much detail as possible, noting their severity and location.

In the event that your doctor does confirm a diagnosis of spinal stenosis, be sure you ask questions about the condition so that you can play an active role in your treatment decisions. Most individuals are able to manage stenosis symptoms with a regimen of nonsurgical therapies like physical therapy, stretching, hot/cold compresses, and epidural steroid injections.

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