5 Things About Spinal Stenosis You Need to Know

Written by Stewart G. Eidelson, MD

Spinal stenosis is one of the most common conditions that causes low back and/or neck pain in adults. Here, we provide the answers to 5 important questions about spinal stenosis.

#1. What is spinal stenosis?
Stenosis is a Greek word that means "narrowing." Spinal stenosis develops when the spinal canal and/or neuroforamen become narrow and compress the spinal cord and/or nerve roots. Compression of the cord/nerves causes inflammation and pain.

#2. What's causing my spinal stenosis?
Most often, spinal stenosis is the result of disease or injury to the spine. The most common cause of spinal stenosis is osteoarthritis (spondylosis); cartilage that cushions joints starts to degenerate. Some patients are genetically more prone to stenosis. They may have osteoarthritis in their family.

#3. What are some non-surgical ways to treat spinal stenosis?
There are many non-surgical treatment options for spinal stenosis.

#4. Will I need surgery to relieve my spinal stenosis?
Most patients with spinal stenosis respond well to non-surgical treatments, and do not require surgery. However, there are situations when you may want to go ahead with a surgical recommendation.

#5. What types of surgery are performed for spinal stenosis?

SpineUniverse News/Research Comment: Key Research on Epidural Steroid Injections for Spinal Stenosis
Epidural steroid injections are among the most commonly prescribed non-surgical treatments for spinal stenosis, and researchers are continuously learning more about their true effectiveness.

While numerous studies have helped the medical community understand these injections, we’d like to highlight 2 studies that readers with spinal stenosis should know about.

The first study, published in 2015, showed that people with lumbar spinal stenosis may not see a “meaningful benefit” from epidural injections that contain a corticosteroid plus lidocaine versus injections that only contain lidocaine.

“The Lumbar Epidural steroid injections for Spinal Stenosis (LESS) trial results suggested that there was little to no benefit 6 weeks later from adding corticosteroids to lidocaine in epidural injections for the treatment of lumbar spinal stenosis symptoms,” said Judith Turner, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA.

The second study, published in 2014, questions one of the primary benefits of epidural spinal injections: it’s ability to delay spine surgery. The study found that epidural steroid injections reduced the need for surgery in some patients, but this was a short-term effect—lasting up to one year.

These studies shouldn’t detract you from receiving epidural steroid injections, as many studies have shown their effectiveness (particularly for patients who have experienced symptoms less than 3 months at the time of therapy). Instead, we hope these findings prompt additional discussion with your physician on the risks and benefits prior to starting treatment.

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