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What is Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal that holds the spinal cord and nerve roots that radiate throughout the entire body. An estimated 8–11 percent of the U.S. population has spinal stenosis, which is the most common reason for back surgery in people ages 50 and older.

What are the Causes and Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?

  • Arthritis, combined with aging, is considered the primary cause.
  • The most noticeable symptom is pain radiating down one or both of the legs when walking or standing.
  • Other symptoms may include low back pain, numbness and pain in the neck, arms or hands.

These symptoms may be temporarily relieved by sitting or bending forward because this reduces pressure on the compressed area of the spine.

How is Spinal Stenosis Treated?

Most often, spinal stenosis will initially be treated with pain relievers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Restricted activity, physical therapy and a lumbar brace may be recommended.

If symptoms are not relieved or become severe—such as with numbness or weakness that interferes with walking—your physician may recommend surgery to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and restore alignment and strength of the spine.

Decompressive laminectomy has been the most common surgery for spinal stenosis. The laminectomy may be done with or without fusing vertebrae or removing part of the disc. A hospital stay of several days may be required, followed by a recuperative period of several weeks as the incision heals and the spine stabilizes. The new X-STOP implant allows the surgery to be performed through a small incision of approximately three to five inches with a much faster recovery.

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