Spinal Stenosis

Understanding Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a painful condition that can affect the neck, back, buttocks, and legs. It is caused by narrowing of the spinal canal, which causes pressure on the spinal canal. If the stenosis is located on the lower part of the spinal cord it is called lumbar spinal stenosis. Stenosis in the upper part of the spinal cord is called cervical spinal stenosis. While spinal stenosis can be found in any part of the spine, the lumbar and cervical areas are the most commonly affected.

What Causes Spinal Stenosis?

Some patients are born with this narrowing, but most often spinal stenosis is seen as a person ages. In people over 50, stenosis is the gradual result of aging and “wear and tear” on the spine during everyday activities. As people age, the ligaments of the spine can thicken and harden (called calcification). Bones and joints may also enlarge, and bone spurs (called osteophytes) may form.

  • Some people with spinal stenosis may have a genetic predisposition . 
  • Bulging or herniated discs are also common. Spondylolisthesis (the slipping of one vertebra onto another) also occurs and leads to compression.
  • When these conditions occur in the spinal area, they can cause the spinal canal to narrow, creating pressure on the spinal nerve.

The narrowing of the spinal canal itself does not usually cause any symptoms. It is when inflammation of the nerves occurs that pain occurs

Patients with lumbar spinal stenosis may feel pain, weakness, or numbness in the legs, calves or buttocks. In the lumbar spine, symptoms often increase when walking short distances and decrease when the patient sits, bends forward or lies down.

Cervical spinal stenosis may cause similar symptoms in the shoulders, arms, and legs; hand clumsiness and gait and balance disturbances can also occur.

The pain may radiate like sciatica or may be a cramping pain. In severe cases, the pain can be constant.

For more information on symptoms of stenosis, visit our sister Website SpineUniverse.


Updated on: 11/18/15
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