Spinal stenosis is when the spinal canal narrows, and it can be present at birth or developed later in life. Stenosis has a number of causes, including degenerative discs pushing into the spinal canal, facet joints in the back of the spine becoming arthritic and narrowing the canal, or spinal ligaments widening and becoming more rigid, which means the spine is less stable.
Patients with spinal stenosis might have worse symptoms when standing or walking, because the spinal canal narrows in this position. When leaning forward or sitting, the spinal canal opens up more, eliminating some of the nerve pressure.
Spinal stenosis can be treated non-surgically, with strengthening exercises. Some patients elect to have a laminectomy, also known as a decompression. During this procedure, a surgeon removes bone from the back of the spinal canal, providing extra room for the spinal cord and its nerves. “By removing bone and ligaments, we provide more space for the nerves and prevent them from getting squeezed or pinched in certain positions,” says Dr. J. Scott Schoeb, a fellowship-trained surgeon who uses minimally invasive surgical techniques when possible.
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