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What to Expect After a Spinal Stenosis Diagnosis

Spinal Stenosis DiagnosisThe first reaction once you have received a spinal stenosis diagnosis from your physician or spine specialist might just be: “I have what, now?” That’s understandable, because “stenosis” is not a word you hear every day. Or, really, ever – unless you are among the unfortunate few who develop debilitating back or neck pain from this condition. Spinal stenosis, as you are likely to know by now if you have found this post, is a narrowing of the nerve channels within the spine. That means the spinal canal or the openings (foramina) where nerve roots pass to and from the spinal cord have become constricted either because of a degenerative spine condition or some other cause.

If you suspect that you might have this problem, or if you have already received your diagnosis, read on for details about what to expect moving forward.

Developing the Plan

The first thing you and your physician will likely determine is what forms of treatment would be best used to manage the spinal stenosis symptoms you are experiencing. In addition to using medical imaging (X-ray, MRI, CT scan) to make a spinal stenosis diagnosis, your physician will also ask you questions about your medical history, your history of physical activity (recreational as well as professional), and about the nature of your symptoms. All of this data will be used by your physician to decide how to proceed with your treatment.

Should Surgery Be Considered?

A spinal stenosis diagnosis is not an automatic sentence to spine surgery. In fact, only about 10 percent of people with debilitating back or neck pain caused by common degenerative spine conditions end up opting for an operation to manage their symptoms.


The vast majority of patients find that they can achieve meaningful relief using a regimen of conservative treatments methods, which might include:

The combination of treatment methods might change over time, because no two cases are alike and there is no real way to predict how your symptoms might respond to a particular treatment. Always stay in close contact with your doctor at the beginning of a treatment regimen, and immediately report and changes for the worse. Think of the first few days as a period of trial and error, and modify your expectations accordingly.

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