Stenosis is a term that describes a narrowing, and when it’s used in conjunction with your spine, it refers to a condition in which your spinal canal has become narrower. In most cases, spinal stenosis is a degenerative disease, and these changes occur over time and with age, which is why 11% of older adults in the United States are affected.
While we’ve gone a long way toward answering the question in this blog's title about whether spinal stenosis always gets worse with age, we will stop short of the word “Always.”
To explain, the team here at Spinal Diagnostics is taking a closer look at what leads to spinal stenosis and whether the condition inevitably worsens with age.
Spinal stenosis most often occurs in areas of your spine that are the most active, which means your cervical spine (neck) and your lumbar spine (lower back).
Since these two areas enjoy the most movement and, arguably, work the hardest, they’re more prone to degenerative changes. These changes include:
Over time, your discs can lose moisture and become more brittle, making them more susceptible to bulging or herniation. When this happens, the disc can escape its intervertebral space and compress nerve roots in your spinal canal.
If you develop arthritis in your spine, such as facet joint arthritis, you can have inflammation and bone spurs, each of which can crowd the space in your spinal canal.
Another common driver of spinal stenosis is a thickening in the ligaments around your spine, which can cause a narrowing in your spinal canal that compresses nerves.
Other issues can lead to stenosis, such as a tumor or a fracture, but the above are the degenerative changes that we want to focus on as they can worsen over time.
If spinal stenosis leads to symptoms, these symptoms depend upon where the stenosis is compressing your nerves.
The most common form of spinal stenosis is lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS), which leads to:
If the stenosis is in your cervical spine, you can experience neck pain and symptoms that radiate into your arm and hand.
No matter the location, if your spinal stenosis has become symptomatic, the odds are good that these symptoms will worsen if you don’t take action.
The good news is that there are several ways in which we can help you move more freely. In the beginning stages of symptomatic stenosis, we can administer interventional injections that relieve your symptoms so that you can take steps through physical therapy to help support your spine. This can slow the progression of your stenosis.
Should your stenosis become advanced, we offer several innovative procedures that create more space in your spine to relieve the pressure on your nerves. These procedures include the mild® procedure for LSS, as well as Vertiflex® spine spacers.
To determine which approach is best for your spinal stenosis, we invite you to contact one of our locations in Tualatin and Newberg, Oregon, to schedule an appointment.