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Spinal Stenosis

Ams or legs tingling? Is it tough to balance, walk downhill or even move some days?

These signs often point to spinal stenosis. This condition narrows the tunnel around your spinal cord (spinal canal). The narrowing irritates, squashes or pinches your spinal cord and nerves — triggering these and other symptoms.

A healthy spine is essential. So, when yours is in less than top shape, Cleveland Clinic experts can help. We uncover what’s causing your spinal canal to narrow. And we personalize treatment based on what we learn. We want you to get back to being as active as possible — as soon as possible.

Why Choose Cleveland Clinic for Spinal Stenosis Care?

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Caring approach:

Back and neck pain can keep you from doing things you love. This can take a toll on your mood and confidence. Our team treats the whole you. We make sure you get the care you need, from back and neck pain treatments to offering a listening ear if you need one. Meet our team.

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Demonstrated expertise:

When you come to Cleveland Clinic for spine care, you can be confident you’ll have a team of healthcare providers who’re nationally recognized in orthopaedic surgery, neurosurgery and other spine treatments. We use the latest tools and therapies for back and neck problems.

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Comprehensive care:

Whether you want to get back to work, sports or your favorite hobbies, we make sure your treatment plan focuses on you and your goals. Have problems with pain? We can help. Need surgery? We use minimally invasive or robotic methods whenever possible.

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Innovation and research:

Cleveland Clinic is known for its research. And spine health research is one area where we’re constantly looking for new, better testing tools and treatments. We often do this by using clinical trials to test new drugs, surgery methods or other treatments before they’re available elsewhere.

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Virtual visits:

When you need a quick touch base with your provider between scheduled in-person appointments, why not try a virtual visit? You’ll get the same great care when you meet with your provider online from the comfort of home

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National recognition:

Cleveland Clinic is a trusted healthcare leader. We're recognized in the U.S. and throughout the world for our expertise and care.

Diagnosing Spinal Stenosis at Cleveland Clinic

Spinal stenosis is common. It develops over time and usually affects your lower back (lumbar spine) and your neck (cervical spine). Rarely, you may have stenosis in your middle back (thoracic spine). You may have developed spinal stenosis from “wear and tear” as you’ve gotten older (acquired) — like from osteoarthritis or a bulging (herniated) disk. Or, less commonly, you may have been born with it (congenital).

No two people experience spinal stenosis in the same way. And sometimes, you may not even have symptoms until it’s progressed. That’s why we approach diagnosis and treatment in a way that meets your unique needs and recovery goals.

What to expect at your first visit

When you come to your first visit, you and your provider will spend a lot of time talking about your symptoms. Understanding what’s been going on with your back or neck is the first step in how our team confirms a diagnosis — and makes sure you get the most personalized treatment.

Your provider will ask questions like:

  • What kind of symptoms are you having?
  • When did these symptoms start?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is your pain?
  • How are your symptoms affecting your life?
  • What other health conditions do you have?
  • Does anyone in your family have neck or back problems?

During this visit, you’ll also have a physical exam. Your provider will look for tender areas along your spine. They may also have you move in different ways to see if these positions cause pain. They’ll also order imaging tests so they can get a closer look at your spine from the inside. You may have:

Meet Our Spinal Stenosis Team

When you get spine care at Cleveland Clinic, you’ll have a team of providers from different specialties working together to confirm your diagnosis and plan your care. We believe that having a care team rather than a single provider gives you the most individualized treatment possible. We build your team with providers like:


Our healthcare providers see patients at convenient locations throughout Northeast Ohio and Florida.

Treating Spinal Stenosis at Cleveland Clinic

Your treatment plan will depend on what’s causing your back or neck pain and how bad your symptoms are. We try to avoid surgery as often as we can. Most people who have spinal stenosis don’t need surgery. You may have:

At-home care

If your symptoms are mild, our team may recommend you try treating it at home. Applying heat can relax tight muscles and soothe sore joints. A cold pack can reduce swelling, inflammation and tenderness.

Physical therapy and exercise

Exercise may also help. We may prescribe physical therapy to help you learn how to strengthen the muscles supporting your spine. You’ll also learn how to improve balance and flexibility. You’ll do exercises at your appointments and at home between sessions.


Your provider may recommend you take over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Motrin® or Advil®), naproxen (Aleve®) or aspirin. Your care team may also prescribe stronger medications to help with severe pain and relax your muscles. You may also get steroid injections to reduce irritation, pain and inflammation around your spinal cord and nerves.


If other treatment options haven’t worked, our team may consider decompression surgery like:

  • Laminectomy: This is the most common surgery for spinal stenosis. We remove part of the vertebra called the lamina, some ligaments and any bone spurs. This opens space for your spinal cord and nerves.
  • Laminotomy: This is also known as a partial laminectomy.
  • Laminoplasty: We use this to treat spinal stenosis in your neck.
  • Foraminotomy: This surgery gives your nerve roots more room. It treats foraminal stenosis.
  • Interspinous process spacers: Our team implants spacers to keep vertebrae apart during this minimally invasive surgery.
  • Spinal fusion: We connect two vertebrae so they can’t move independently. This permanent treatment is a final option if other therapies haven’t worked.

Living With Spinal Stenosis

Age-related wear and tear often causes spinal stenosis. And while you can’t completely prevent it, you can do things at home to keep it from getting worse after treatment. Eating well, maintaining a weight that’s healthy for you and exercising regularly are some ways to keep your muscles and bones in good shape.

Your care team will check in with you to see if you have any returning symptoms. If you notice new pain or numbness, let them know right away. They can find out what’s going on and start treatment if needed.

Taking the Next Step

You don’t have to live with constant back or neck pain. There are many ways to treat a common cause — spinal stenosis. Our providers will learn more about your symptoms and go over the best treatment options for you. We’re here to help you get on the path to more active living.

Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s spinal stenosis experts is easy. We’re here to help you get the care you need.


Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s spinal stenosis experts is easy. We’re here to help you get the care you need.

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