What Is the Difference Between Spinal Stenosis and Arthritis of the Spine?

The difference between spinal stenosis and spinal arthritis is that stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces in the spine that causes nerve compression, whereas arthritis is just one of many potential causes of stenosis, explains WebMD. Arthritis of the spine is a continuous degeneration of the spine, says Spine-health.com.

Other possible causes of stenosis are aging, heredity, trauma, tumors and spinal instability, according to WebMD. As the body ages, various factors such as ligament thickening and deteriorating discs can cause the spaces in the backbone to narrow. Stenosis can develop in young people whose spinal canals are too narrow at birth. Injuries and accidents may cause fragments of bone to penetrate the spinal canal or cause dislocation in the spine. Tumors that lead to abnormal tissue growth may cause inflammation and cause bone loss or displacement.

Arthritis of the spine is a degenerative process sometimes associated with other spinal conditions, notes Spine-health.com. It is associated with degenerative discs and usually occurs in people over 50. Spinal arthritis and degenerative discs often appear together because the discs and the facet joints affected by arthritis are part of the same construct. Discs can stress the facet joints and eventually lead to arthritis in these joints. The two conditions are closely related, but they also appear separately, and it is possible to have one without the other.