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Understanding the Two Types of Spinal Stenosis

Understanding the Two Types of Spinal Stenosis

If you have spinal stenosis, openings in your spine become narrow, which puts pressure on your spinal cord or spinal nerves. However, the narrowing can develop in different parts of the bones making up the spinal column and in different areas of the spine itself. 

That means the effects of spinal stenosis can vary significantly from person to person. Knowing which type of stenosis you have and where it exists ensures that you get the most effective treatment available to relieve your symptoms.

At Glaser Pain Relief Center in Encino, California, our team specializes in diagnosing and treating complex pain conditions involving the nerves, including spinal stenosis. Do you have spinal stenosis? Here’s what you need to know about its different forms and how it affects your spine.

How the spine works — a basic anatomy lesson

People often refer to the spine as the backbone. However, this “bone” contains 24 individual bones — called vertebrae — stacked on top of each other and connected by delicate facet joints. Together, they create your spinal column. This crucial structure has two important jobs: It supports your body and protects a bundle of nerves known as your spinal cord.

Your spinal cord is the main line of communication between your brain and the rest of your body. Each vertebra has a hole at its center known as the vertebral foramen. These openings form a channel within the spinal column that holds and protects the spinal cord and its nerve roots. 

As the spinal cord passes through your spinal column, individual nerve roots branch off to reach the rest of your body. Your spine has 31 pairs of nerve roots that exit from small spaces on each side of the vertebra known as neural or intervertebral foramina.

Types of spinal stenosis

When you have spinal stenosis, the passageways in your spine become narrow, affecting spinal cord and nerve function. This can trigger varying symptoms, depending on the affected area, such as:

In most cases, stenosis occurs in the neck and in the lower back. Your doctor might tell you you have cervical or lumbar stenosis based on its location in your spine. However, classifying spinal stenosis usually goes a step further.

There are also two basic types of spinal stenosis that describe where in the vertebrae the narrowing occurs.

Foraminal stenosis

This type of stenosis involves the bony openings of the vertebrae where nerves exit the spinal canal — or the intervertebral foramen. When these channels narrow, nerves passing through can become painful, pinched, and dysfunctional. 

This form of stenosis — also called lateral stenosis — can occur anywhere, but it’s most common in the lumbar spine.

Central canal stenosis

As you might guess, this type of spinal stenosis involves the opening in the center of the vertebra. When this opening grows smaller, it compresses the spinal cord, causing pain and dysfunction anywhere in the body below the constriction.

Any vertebrae in the spine can develop central canal stenosis. However, it’s most common in the cervical and lumbar regions. 

You can also have both of these types of spinal stenosis at the same time.

Understanding the types of spinal stenosis

Because spinal stenosis can affect numerous parts of the spine, understanding your condition guides treatment options. Our team specializes in interventional pain management therapies, so an accurate diagnosis is key to outlining the best treatment strategy. 

At Glaser Pain Relief Center, we offer a variety of strategies to ease spinal stenosis symptoms. Based on the type and location, we could recommend:

We also offer spinal cord stimulation, a highly effective pain management strategy that uses mild electrical pulses to modify the pain signals going to your brain.

Is spinal stenosis affecting your quality of life? Learn more about your condition and how to find relief by contacting Glaser Pain Relief Center to schedule a consultation today.

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