Dr. Ronzo calls spinal stenosis the silent disease because there are very few pain symptoms. When patients have difficulty walking because their legs feel like lead or wood, Dr. Ronzo says spinal stenosis is one of the first conditions to look at.

What is Spinal Stenosis?

Stenosis is a Greek word that means narrowing. In medicine, stenosis is the abnormal narrowing of a passage in the body.” Spinal stenosis specifically refers to the narrowing of the spinal canals.

The spinal cord and nerves are surrounded by bones (vertebrae) and ligaments (the dense bands of connective tissue that connect bones to other bones to form joints). In a normal spine, these surrounding structures provide comfortable canals in which the spinal cord and nerves live. When the bones and ligaments are damaged because of a disease or trauma, they can compete for the spaces in  the spine. It’s no longer a cozy space when overgrown bones, displaced discs or thick ligaments take up residence in the canals. These unwanted guests can put pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves responsible for sending signals to the arms and legs, causing discomfort and in some cases pain.

What Causes Spinal Stenosis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) – is a common cause of spinal stenosis. Previous injuries, overuse and genetics play a large role in how well our joints fare as we age and how prone we are to developing OA, or degenerative joint disease.  One of the most chronic conditions of the joints, OA often occurs in the lower back and neck.  As OA worsens, the vertebrae in the back and neck may break down and develop growths called bone spurs. These growths can move into the spinal canal. Although OA can occur in people of all ages, it’s most common in people older than 65.

Paget’s Disease – this bone disease is an excessive breakdown and formation of bone

Herniated Disc– When vertebral disc dehydrates and stiffens, the jelly-like inner-core (the nucleus pulposus) can herniate through the protective annulus fibrosus layer and inflame the nerve roots.

Ligaments – When the tough bands of ligament that hold the bones together thickens they can bulge into the spinal canal, pinching the spinal cord and nerves.

Tumors – Abnormal growths that form inside the spaces within the spine can affect the spinal nerves and cord.

Spinal Injuries – A car accident, a sports injury a fall can cause dislocations and fractures of one more vertebrae. The displaced bones and bone fragments can damage the contents of the spinal canal.

Bulging Disc

An illustration shows how a bulging disc moves into the space occupied by a nerve. The bulging disc compresses the nerve, resulting in pain symptoms. The narrowing of the spaces due to bone, disc or ligament material moving into the spaces where the nerve roots and spinal cord live is called spinal stenosis.

75 percent of spinal stenosis cases occur in the lower back, which often affects the sciatic nerve, causing a condition known as sciatica.

What are the symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal Stenosis can cause back pain.

Back Pain

Neck pain can be a symptom of spinal stenosis.

Neck Pain

Spinal Stenosis can cause tingling.


Spinal Stenosis can cause pain in the extremities.

Pain in Extremities

Spinal Stenosis can cause leg numbness.

Leg numbness

Spinal stenosis can lead to weakness in the legs.

Leg Weakness

When the spinal cord and nerves become compressed or pinched a variety of symptoms may occur. Symptoms commonly associated with Spinal Stenosis are back pain, neck pain, tingling, pain in the extremities, leg numbness and leg weakness.

In extremely rare cases, typically, a herniated disc in the lower back can compress the cauda equina. The cauda equine is a bundle of spinal nerves and nerve roots that send signals to the pelvic organs and lower limbs. People with cauda equina syndrome may experience bladder control issues, sexual function problems and leg paralysis.  

Spinal Stenosis Treatment Options

A laminectomy is a very common procedure that removes a portion of what is known as a the lamina in order to create space in the area affected by the bulging disc. Learn More.


A laminotomy is a spinal decompression surgery where only a very small portion of the lamina is removed to remove pressure on the nerves and spinal cord to relieve pain. Learn More.


When the disc compresses the spinal cord or nerve root, removal is a consideration. The disc is replaced with an artificial disc to preserve motion at the disc space. Learn More.


During an ACDF the damaged disc in the neck is removed, relieving pain and pressure, while at the same time providing new much needed stability with a reinforced implant. Learn More.


During a lumbar fusion the damaged disc is removed from the lower back (lumbar spine), and the two vertebrae are fused together with a reinforced implant to create more support. Learn More.


Also known as an RFA, this procedure uses high-energy radio frequency to ablate the troubled nerve, essentially eliminating the source of pain. Learn More.


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