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Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spine or the collapse of the bones of the spine most often caused by osteoarthritis. It is a common condition and is considered part of the normal aging process. Some people with spinal stenosis do not know they have the condition because they do not experience any symptoms. Others experience pain as the spinal stenosis begins to worsen.

Stenosis happens when the degeneration of the spinal column changes the alignment of the natural spine. As arthritis develops in the spine, the tube of the spinal column shrinks and nerves become pinched. This can create pain in your back, neck and legs. 

Spinal stenosis can happen anywhere along your spine, but most often occurs in the lower (lumbar) back. Leg weakness and pain are common symptoms. If you experience shooting pains in your legs or severe weakness, you should call your physician right away.

There are two kinds of spinal stenosis:

  • Degenerative
  • Congenital

Degenerative spinal stenosis is caused by arthritis and most often occurs in people age 50 or older, although it can affect younger people as well. As you age, your bones become brittle. The wear and tear of supporting your body can weaken your spine, which begins to deteriorate. Congenital spinal stenosis affects people who are born with a smaller spinal canal. These patients experience similar symptoms but at a much earlier age.

Spinal stenosis is diagnosed using imaging technology to visualize your spine and spinal cord. Imaging tests used include:

If spinal stenosis is suspected, a CT scan with contrasting dye (myelogram) may be performed to further examine your spinal cord.

When spinal stenosis affects your ability to walk, run or be physically active, we offer expertise in therapies that reduce or remove the cause of your pain. We make it as easy as possible for you to receive a diagnosis and necessary treatments, all in one place.

At the Indiana University Health Neuroscience Center, we use a multidisciplinary approach to reduce your pain from spinal stenosis and help you manage life with the condition. Our team of specialists includes physiatrists, physical therapists, pain management physicians and neurosurgeons who provide a range of treatments to meet your needs, including microsurgical techniques.

Our affiliation with the Indiana University School of Medicine and the physicians at Goodman Campbell Brain and Spine helps us to deliver the latest therapies to patients and stay actively involved in ongoing research to improve care for spinal stenosis.

We are one of the first centers to enroll patients in the National Neurosurgery Quality and Outcomes Database (N2QOD), designed to track the quality of surgical care for the most common neurosurgical procedures. The N2QOD effort provides essential data neurosurgeons need to determine the best treatment options for specific sets of symptoms.

We also are leaders in research and clinical trials designed to advance treatment options for spinal stenosis.

How We Can Help

How We Can Help

Spinal Stenosis Treatment Information

Treatment for spinal stenosis depends on the severity of your pain. We employ a variety of steps for pain management. We often use conservative measures first before turning to surgery. If symptoms involve motor weakness and loss of bowel control, surgery becomes a priority to preserve nerve functions.


Spinal Stenosis Locations & Physicians

Use the search options below to find treatments available in your area.

Find a Specialist

Enter a Zip Code to find a specialist at IU Health.


Spinal Stenosis Support Services

Learn more about spinal stenosis treatments at these websites: