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Spinal Stenosis

The spinal canal is a long cylindrical space starting from the base of the skull all the way down to the tail bone. The walls of this cylindrical space are the dices and vertebral body from the front side and other portions of the vertebrae on the sides and the back. The bony borders protect the content of the spinal canal which are the Spinal cord and the nerve roots.

Within the spinal canal space is of a premium. Spinal cord and segmental nerve roots need to travel and then exit out of the spinal canal without crowding.   The condition in which there is less space available for the spinal cord or nerves to pass through is called spinal stenosis (the word stenosis means narrowing in Latin).  A number of conditions may leads to development of spinal stenosis.  This includes herniation of the discs, arthritis of the adjacent joints called “facets,” thickening of internal spinal ligaments, fracture of  the vertebrae, developments of a cyst (synovial cyst) and in rare cases tumors. Generally it is "arthritis" that is a major contributor to the development of stenosis in the neck or low back. Symptoms often develops over a long period of time.

Spinal stenosis may affect travelling spinal cord or the nerve root at the most narrowed segment. This can lead to slowly developing symptoms of back /neck pain, leg or arm pain, numbness, tingling and weakness, difficulty with balance, poor dexterity and in rare cases incontinence. The most common symptom in lumbar stenosis is back and leg pain with standing or walking. Associated symptoms includes numbness, tingling, and in advanced cases weakness and bladder and bowel changes. Sitting down or leaning forward on a chair or shopping cart often alleviates the symptoms.

Activity modification and pacing is recommended in patients with spinal stenosis. Other treatment options available for spinal stenosis at Tufts MC in Boston include: 

  • Aback brace offered for comfort.  
  • Pain relief can be achieved by means of  over-the-counter and prescribed pain medications. 
  • Physical therapy exercises can improve function and in many cases reduce pain. Minimally invasive spinal procedures can be safe and effective method of controlling pain. This includes Epidural steroid injections and for a subset of patients minimally invasive percutaneu decompression procedures. 
  • For patients whom fail to improve with conservative care or if they develop progressive neurologic deficits, Surgical options including Laminectomy with or without instrumentation/Laminoplasty should be considered.

Programs + Services


Spine Center

Downtown Boston specialists offering care for back pain, herniated disk, pinched nerve in back, sciatica, neck pain, spinal stenosis and more.
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Pain Management Center

The Tufts MC Pain Management Center in downtown Boston specializes in eliminating or reducing chronic pain (particularly in the back and neck) and cancer pain.
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Spinal stenosis: What is it? How can you find relief?

We asked Tufts Medical Center neurosurgeon and back pain expert, Jim Kryzanski, MD to provide some of the top things that you should know about spinal stenosis, including treatment options available in Boston.
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Doctors + Care Team

Adriana Desillier, MD

Adriana Desillier, MD

Title(s): Anesthesiologist; Assistant Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
Department(s): Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine
Appt. Phone: 617-636-6208
Fax #: 617-636-9993

Treatment of complex regional pain syndrome (RSD), neuropathic pain, work related injuries, sports related injuries, ultrasound guided nerve blocks, interventional pain procedures and perioperative pain management, rhizotomy, epidurals, opioid tapering, abdominal pain, pelvic pain, PTSD management via US guided stellate ganglion blocks, refractory VT treatment via US guided stellate ganglion block, refractory chronic plantar fasciitis

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James Kryzanski, MD

James Kryzanski, MD

Title(s): Chief, Division of Epilepsy Surgery; Co-Chief, Division of Spinal Surgery; Assistant Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
Department(s): Neurosurgery
Appt. Phone: 617-636-8585
Fax #: 617-636-7587

Epilepsy neurosurgery, skull base surgery, pituitary surgery, neurovascular surgery, minimally invasive spine surgery, neurosurgical disorders in patients with achondroplasia, neurosurgical disorders in patients with Down syndrome

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Rina M. Bloch, MD

Rina M. Bloch, MD

Title(s): Adult Physiatrist; Associate Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
Department(s): Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Appt. Phone: 617-636-5631
Fax #: 617-636-2551

Adult and geriatric rehabilitation, musculoskeletal, brain injury, stroke, rheumatological management, spine care

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Ron I. Riesenburger, MD

Ron I. Riesenburger, MD

Title(s): Director, Spine Center; Co-Chief, Division of Spinal Surgery; Neurosurgeon; Associate Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
Department(s): Neurosurgery
Appt. Phone: 617-636-8484
Fax #: 617-636-7587

Minimally invasive spine surgery, spinal deformity and scoliosis, complex and reconstructive spine surgery

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Sameer O. Kapasi, MD

Sameer O. Kapasi, MD

Title(s): Attending Physiatrist; Clinical Assistant Professor
Department(s): Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Appt. Phone: 617-636-5631
Fax #: 617-636-2551

Cervical, Thoracic, Lumbar, Sacral Degenerative disease including facet and disc degeneration, sciatica, radiculopathy, and spinal stenosis.

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Simcha J. Weller, MD

Simcha J. Weller, MD

Title(s): Neurosurgeon; Assistant Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
Department(s): Neurosurgery
Appt. Phone: 617-636-8686
Fax #: 617-636-7587

Complex and reconstructive cervical spine surgery, spinal microsurgery, surgical treatment of cervical spondylotic myeloradiculopathy, cervical spine trauma

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Wei-Lee Liao, MD

Wei-Lee Liao, MD

Title(s): Adult Physiatrist; Director, Urgent Care Outpatient Rehabilitation Medicine Clinic; Assistant Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
Department(s): Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Appt. Phone: 617-636-5631
Fax #: 617-636-2551

Acute care inpatient rehabilitation for physiatric conditions, spinal cord injury care, stroke, cerebral palsy, head injury/traumatic brain injury

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Wilfred L. Hynes, MD

Wilfred L. Hynes, MD

Title(s): Director, Pain Clinic; Assistant Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
Department(s): Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine
Appt. Phone: 617-636-6208
Fax #: 617-636-9993

Anesthesiology, pain management

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Zachary W. Bohart, MD

Zachary W. Bohart, MD

Title(s): Adult Physiatrist; Assistant Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
Department(s): Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Appt. Phone: 617-636-5631
Fax #: 617-636-2551

Spasticity and tone management including stroke, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury

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