Understanding Spinal Stenosis and How Heredity Plays a Role

Spinal stenosis is a condition in which your spinal canal narrows, placing pressure on your nerves, which can cause pain. While this condition is most often associated with age and wear and tear, heredity does play a significant role in whether you develop stenosis.

At Advanced Spine Care and Pain Management of New York, our highly qualified team of spine experts understands the many conditions that can cause back and neck pain, and spinal stenosis ranks among the more common, especially when it comes to our older patients. While this fact alone may lead us to conclude that age is the biggest risk influencer, emerging research shows that heredity is also an important factor.

In the following, we explore the role that heredity plays in determining your risk for developing spinal stenosis.

Spinal stenosis at a glance

Studies show that 5 out of every 1,000 adults over the age of 50 in the United States report symptoms of spinal stenosis.

Stenosis can affect your entire spine, but more often than not, the condition develops in either your lumbar spine (lower back) or cervical spine (neck), which are the two areas of your spine that enjoy the most movement.

In many cases, the stenosis is present long before you realize there’s a problem as nerve involvement usually develops as the stenosis progresses. When symptoms develop, they typically include pain, as well as tingling, weakness, and/or numbness in your upper or lower limbs.

The location of these symptoms points to the location of your stenosis — symptoms in your arms and hands are associated with cervical stenosis while symptoms in your lower limbs indicate lumbar stenosis.

The causes of stenosis and the role of heredity

It’s long been thought that age along with wear and tear were the primary culprits behind progressive spinal stenosis, especially at the hands of osteoarthritis. While certainly true, recent studies have added heredity to the mix.

For example, one study examined nearly 600 male twins for signs of lumbar stenosis by measuring the possible genetic pathways, including disc bulging and standing height, as indicators of skeletal size and development. What the researchers found is that heritability estimates were 66.9% for lumbar spinal stenosis.

Another study that examined 469 people found that specific genetic changes increased the risk for developing lumbar spinal stenosis.

What these studies show us is that we can now look for certain markers that may make you more prone to developing spinal stenosis, which allows us to take preventive steps, in the best-case scenario.

If your stenosis has already advanced to the point where you’re in discomfort, rest assured that our practice provides a wide range of treatment options that will bring you relief, including:

If you’d like to learn more about whether you may be at risk for spinal stenosis, please contact one of our two locations in Staten Island and Hartsdale, New York.

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