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A B C D E F G H I J K LM N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0-9
(A-Z listing includes diseases, conditions, tests and procedures)

Spinal Stenosis

What is spinal stenosis?

The bones of the spine create a channel for the spinal cord and nerve roots. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of this channel, most commonly due to degenerative spinal disease associated with aging. In some cases, a person can be born with spinal stenosis. 


What are the symptoms of spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis can put pressure on the spinal cord or on nerve roots — the branches of the spinal cord that extend into the body — resulting in myelopathy.

What are the risk factors of spinal stenosis?

As we age, inflammation, arthritic illness and bone spurs can narrow the openings in the vertebrae. In addition, spinal disks that cushion the space between the vertebrae gradually dry out and flatten, and can put pressure on the spinal canal.

Spinal stenosis diagnosis

Your doctor may recommend the following tests:

  • An X-ray to rule out other problems.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for a detailed look of the spine and spinal canal that can show areas of stenosis.

Spinal Fusion | Richard’s Story

After living with back pain for years and not having any positive results from prior care, U.S. Army veteran Richard Shetter sought a second opinion from the Johns Hopkins orthopaedic spine division.

Learn more about Richard’s care at Johns Hopkins.

Spinal stenosis treatment

Mild cases of stenosis may be treated with non-surgical approaches. A combination of exercise, lifestyle changes, hot and cold treatments, injections, or oral medication can help you control your symptoms.  
It’s very important to take any medications exactly as your doctor prescribes them, since many pain medicines and muscle relaxers can cause side effects, especially when used for a long time.
For advanced stenosis, your doctor may recommend surgery, such as a procedure to increase the channel space of your spinal cord (laminoplasty) or one that permanently removes a small section of bone from the spine to relieve pressure on the cord (laminectomy).
Minimally invasive spine surgery may resolve stenosis with a lower risk for complications and a potentially faster recovery time than conventional open surgery procedures.

Recent Studies

More Patient Input, Better Spine Outcomes

Not long ago, researchers measured spine surgery outcomes based on technical expertise, fusion rates, deformity correction and equipment failure. But that only told half the story, says health services researcher Richard Skolasky, an associate professor of orthopaedic surgery and director of The Johns Hopkins Hospital’s Spine Outcomes Research Center. “Patients,” he says, “are the experts in their own experience.

Read more

Survey Shows Spine Surgeons Need to Screen More Patients for Anxiety and Depression

In a report published in the Journal of Spinal Disorders and Techniques, a Johns Hopkins team says that only 10 percent of orthopaedic surgeons and neurosurgeons follow professional guidelines that recommend routine psychological screenings of patients prior to major surgery for severe back and leg pain.

Read more

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