Spinal Stenosis Treatment

Specialists in Treating Spinal Stenosis

At the Brigham and Women's Hospital Comprehensive Spine Center, our multidisciplinary spine care team has vast experience in managing the complexities of spinal stenosis and developing customized treatment plans tailored to meet the needs of each individual patient.

What Is Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spine, which results in pressure on the spinal cord and/or nerve roots. Spinal stenosis may occur in the neck (cervical spine), causing pain in the shoulders and arms, or in the lower back (lumbar spine), causing pain in the legs.

What Are the Causes of Spinal Stenosis?

While young people born with a small spinal canal can develop symptoms, spinal stenosis is more prevalent in people over 50. Aging causes the ligaments that connect the spine and bones to become thick and calcified, tightening the spinal canal and breaking down the discs between the vertebrae.

In addition to aging, spinal stenosis may be caused by:

  • Arthritis
  • Bone spurs that form on the spine
  • Bone diseases like Paget disease
  • A congenital defect or growth on the spine
  • A herniated or slipped desk
  • Spinal tumors
  • Spinal injuries

What Are Common Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?

Symptoms of spinal stenosis include pain, numbness, cramping, tingling, hot or cold sensations, difficulty walking, and a heavy or tired feeling in the legs, shoulders, and/or arms. More serious symptoms include problems controlling bowel movements or urination. Spinal stenosis may also cause a person to experience clumsiness and to fall frequently.

Spinal stenosis symptoms often get worse over time and may be felt only on one side of the body. Symptoms can often be alleviated somewhat by bending forward.

How Is Spinal Stenosis Diagnosed?

Spinal stenosis is typically diagnosed through a combination of methods, including:

  • Medical history, which may include past injuries or illnesses
  • Physical examination to determine the extent of limitation of movement, pain or symptoms, and neurologic function (sensation, muscle strength, and reflexes) in the arms and legs
  • Imaging, including x-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), myelogram, and bone scans

Can Spinal Stenosis Be Prevented?

Staying physically fit and getting regular exercise can contribute to a healthier spine by improving endurance and strengthening the back muscles. Exercises like walking, swimming, cycling, and weight training are all good for your back. Maintaining a healthy weight also is beneficial, as it reduces the load placed on the spine. In addition, improving posture and learning proper lifting techniques can help reduce strain and risk of injury.

How Is Spinal Stenosis Treated?

Patients seeking spinal stenosis treatment can find world-class care at the Brigham and Women's Hospital Comprehensive Spine Center and consult with some of the best neurosurgeons in the country.

Spinal stenosis treatment often varies, depending on the severity of the condition and the patient’s health. Evaluation and treatment for spinal stenosis will be determined by specialists who are dedicated to helping patients with spinal conditions and are able to offer a wide range of therapies so that treatment can be tailored to the individual patient.

Our multidisciplinary team of internationally recognized neurosurgeons, all members of the faculty at Harvard Medical School, provide state-of-the-art treatments and care using many revolutionary techniques to improve outcomes for patients.

Why Choose Brigham and Women’s Hospital

The Brigham and Women's Comprehensive Spine Center offers multidisciplinary treatment for patients experiencing spinal conditions due to back pain, disease, or injury. Patients are referred to the appropriate clinical service for initial evaluation using advanced diagnostic procedures and imaging. Neurosurgeons and orthopaedic surgeons in the center work with specialists in pain management and physical medicine to development personalized treatment plans. The collaborative focus of the center allows patients to seamlessly transition between clinical services as dictated by their diagnosis and progress.

As a patient at Brigham and Women's Hospital, you can count on:

  • Access to a dedicated and nationally recognized team of neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, and specialists in pain management and physiatry, all of whom are members of the faculty at Harvard Medical School
  • A comprehensive approach to the diagnosis and treatment of spinal stenosis, including an evaluation of nonsurgical options as well as surgical approaches such as laminectomy, spinal fusion, discectomy, and foraminotomy
  • Compassionate, thorough, and individualized care from a team of internationally recognized spine surgeons, all of whom are highly skilled in the latest surgical techniques—including minimally invasive options
  • A team dedicated to conducting cutting-edge research for disorders, injuries, and treatments involving the spine

Patient- and Family-Focused Care

Brigham and Women’s Hospital has long been committed to not only the care of our patients, but also the many other needs that they and their families have. This philosophy of patient- and family-focused care—involving systems and services that emphasize healing in a comfortable, relaxed environment—is a guiding force behind the care we provide at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Quality Of Patient Care

Brigham and Women’s is committed to providing all of our patients with the safest, highest-quality, most-satisfying care possible and follow established protocols that have been shown to improve patient outcomes. Our Inpatient Satisfaction Survey, sent to patients’ to assess their total care experience, helps us to monitor what we are doing well and areas for improvement. We pride ourselves in the Quality of Patient Care we provide and how we are measured compared with other hospitals.

Learn more about Brigham and Women's Hospital

For over a century, a leader in patient care, medical education and research, with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery.

About BWH