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Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal. This narrowing can put pressure on the spinal cord and/or nerve roots, which can cause numbness, weakness or pain.

There are two common types of spinal stenosis:

  • Lumbar spinal stenosis (narrowing in the lumbar, or lower back, part of the spine)
  • Cervical spinal stenosis (narrowing in the cervical, or upper back and neck, region)

Spinal stenosis symptoms

Symptoms of spinal stenosis depend on what part of the spine is affected by pressure. Typical spinal stenosis symptoms include the following:

  • Pain radiating from your lower back down your leg (sciatica)
  • Pain radiating from your neck down your arm
  • Numbness or weakness in your leg, arm or shoulder

Spinal stenosis causes

Causes of spinal stenosis include the following:

If spinal stenosis is caused by degeneration, nonsurgical treatments may not provide long-term relief. Surgery may be required to address the source of the pain, numbness or weakness.

Care for spinal stenosis at Rush

Identifying the best method to treat your spinal stenosis depends on many factors. These factors include its location, the cause of your stenosis, your general health and age, and how debilitating your pain, weakness or numbness is.

Nonsurgical treatments. Spine doctors at Rush first try nonsurgical methods for spinal stenosis relief:

  • Stretching or physical therapy
  • Regular exercise to strengthen your back muscles
  • Pain-relieving medication (taken by mouth)
  • Spinal injections of pain-relieving medication directly into the source of pain

Surgical options. If nonsurgical options don’t provide long-term relief, spine surgeons at Rush will help you determine which surgical option will best address your stenosis. The following are some of the more common surgical treatments for spinal stenosis:

  • Discectomy: removes part of a disc from your spinal column. This surgery may be combined with one or more of the procedures below. At Rush, a disectomy is typically performed as an outpatient procedure and often does not involve a hospital stay.
  • Laminectomy: used to create more space for the nerves by removing the lamina (or roof) of one or more vertebrae. The procedure can be performed by itself or in combination with one or more of the procedures below.
  • Spinal fusion: a surgery in which two or more vertebrae are permanently joined together. Whenever possible, spine surgeons at Rush perform fusions using minimally invasive approaches that help you heal faster and with less pain.
  • Foraminotomy: performed to remove pressure from a nerve root by removing a small portion of bone around the affected nerve root. This may be performed by itself or in combination with a laminectomy or a discectomy.

Why choose Rush for spinal stenosis care

  • More patients come to Rush for spine care than any other hospital in the Chicago area.
  • Rush is consistently ranked among the top U.S. hospitals for orthopedicsneurology and neurosurgery by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Spine surgeons at Rush offer, and in many cases helped pioneer, advanced treatments for spinal surgery. These advances including minimally invasive approaches that help you heal faster with less pain.

Departments and programs that treat this condition