The Southeastern Spine Institute

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a condition caused when new bone and soft tissue grow on your vertebrae. As a result, the new bone and tissue reduce the space in your spinal canal for your nerves. When this new growth pinches your nerve roots, it can cause severe pain.


You’ll likely feel a painful burning, tingling and/or numbing sensation from your lower back down to your legs. Sometimes, you’ll feel it all the way to your feet.


Spinal stenosis is caused by a variety of reasons, such as genetics and the following:

  • Back injuries: Injuries from car accidents and other trauma can dislocate or fracture your vertebrae. Displaced bone from a spinal fracture can damage your spinal cord. In addition, if adjacent tissue swells, it also can put pressure on your spinal cord or nerves.
  • Herniated discs: If your discs, the “shock absorbers” between your vertebrae, dry out, whether through age or injury, bone spurs can lead to spinal stenosis. Aherniated disc leaks its soft spongy nucleus, which can impinge your spinal cord or nerves.
  • Bone overgrowth: Wear and tear on your vertebrae from the aging process can cause bone spurs to form. If they grow into your spinal canal, you can develop spinal stenosis. Paget’s disease also can cause your bones to grow into your spine.
  • Thickened ligaments: Over time, the ligaments that hold the bones of your spine in place can become stiff and thick. If thick enough, they can bulge into your spinal canal, causing spinal stenosis.
  • Tumors: Abnormal tissue formations can appear inside the membrane that covers your spinal cord, causing spinal stenosis. Tumors also can grow in the space between the spinal cord and vertebrae.

As shown in the illustration, the spinal canal in a healthy spine has a rounded triangular shape that holds the nerve roots without pinching. Nerve roots leave the spinal canal through openings called nerve root canals. These canals also are free of obstructions.


In a spine with spinal stenosis, new bone and soft tissue grow within the spinal canal, as you can see in the illustration. The new growth compresses the nerve roots, which leads to the pain of spinal stenosis.


Your treatment for spinal stenosis depends on the location of the disease and the severity of your pain. Most treatments include therapy and non-invasive medical options. A course of anti-inflammatory drugs and pain medications may help, including:

  • Non-prescription and prescription pain relievers
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Corticosteroids
  • Opioids
  • Antidepressants

These options comprise the usual treatment for spinal stenosis. Our conservative physicians believe that if they can relieve your pain for a short length of time, the source of your pain may repair itself.

For those who do not respond to any of these treatments, surgery is an option. While several surgical options are available, laminectomy may be the best bet to solve your spinal stenosis. Only your spinal surgeon can decide the best treatment for you.

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