Can a Herniated Disc Cause Spinal Stenosis?

Jan 17, 2023

Can a Herniated Disc Cause Spinal Stenosis?

Your spine is a complex part of your anatomy that rivals the most advanced technology and sophisticated engineering designs. It houses most of your central nervous system, an intricate network of nerves, vessels, ligaments, muscles, and bones that operate inside a tube with a diameter equal to a pea. 

If anything encroaches on that limited space — a condition called spinal stenosis — the nerves become compressed, and you may experience pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness along the path of the affected nerve.

If you experience spinal stenosis symptoms, we can help. We have six Coastal Spine locations throughout New Jersey, each staffed by experienced back, spine, and neck specialists who can diagnose the underlying cause of your spinal stenosis and develop a treatment plan to help you achieve lasting relief. 

Here, our team of orthopedic specialists explains the causes of spinal stenosis and how herniated discs play a role. 

Common causes of spinal stenosis

Stenosis means narrowing, a word you don’t want to be associated with your spine. Unfortunately, spinal stenosis is a common condition, especially among the elderly. By the age of 50, nearly 95% of people have signs of spinal degeneration, which can lead to spinal stenosis. Other causes of spinal stenosis include:

By far, the most common culprit is a herniated disc, which is why we’re focusing on it here.

What is a disc, and what causes it to herniate?

Spinal discs are small, circular cushions located between each bony vertebra in your spinal column. They absorb shock every time you jump, twist, and bend, enabling you to move freely and painlessly. 

Each disc contains a gel-like inner core protected by a firm outer shell. Although they’re fairly durable, they aren’t indestructible. With age, discs can dehydrate and deteriorate. One wrong move can cause the weakened annulus (outer shell) to rupture, allowing the inner nucleus (gel) to bulge outward or herniate. 

You can get a herniated disc from:

  • Poor lifting techniques
  • Being pregnant or obese
  • Traumatic injury to the spine
  • Having poor posture

Regardless of what causes your herniated disc, the result is a bulging nucleus that takes up precious space in your spinal column, resulting in spinal stenosis.

About 80% of herniated discs heal themselves. You can support the healing process by applying ice therapy to the area, taking anti-inflammatory medication, and modifying your activity. We can help by providing massage therapy, physical therapy, and spinal injections to reduce inflammation and increase mobility. 

For more severe cases, we also offer radiofrequency ablation to gently heat the affected nerve and stop it from sending pain signals to your brain.

If these measures don’t relieve your symptoms, we can surgically remove the damaged disc (discectomy) or a small portion of the vertebra (laminectomy) to restore the space in your spine and relieve spinal stenosis caused by a herniated disc.

Do you have more questions about herniated discs and spinal stenosis? Schedule an appointment at the Coastal Spine location nearest you in Mount Laurel, Sewell, Galloway, Toms River, Vineland, or West Orange, New Jersey.