Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of one or more areas in your spine — most often in your neck or lower back. This narrowing can put pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves at the level of compression.
Depending on which nerves are affected, spinal stenosis can cause pain or numbness in your legs, back, neck, shoulders or arms; limb weakness and incoordination; loss of sensation in your extremities; and problems with bladder or bowel function. Pain is not always present, particularly if you have spinal stenosis in your neck.
Spinal stenosis is commonly caused by age-related changes in the spine. In severe cases of spinal stenosis, doctors may recommend surgery to create additional space for the spinal cord or nerves.
Spinal stenosis occurs when the space within the spinal canal or around the nerve roots becomes narrowed. ...
Many people have evidence of spinal stenosis on X-rays, but have no signs or symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they often start gradually and worsen over time. The most common parts of the spine affected by spinal stenosis are the neck and lower back. Symptoms vary, depending on the location of the stenosis.
Spinal stenosis in the neck
Spinal stenosis in the lower back
When to see a doctor
Many different types of problems can reduce the amount of space within the spinal canal. The most common of these problems are related to degeneration and the aging process. Other causes range from birth defects to benign or cancerous tumors.
Other causes of spinal stenosis
Degenerative changes of the spine
As your spine ages, it's more likely to experience bone spurs and thinned or herniated disks. These problems can reduce the amount of space available for your spinal cord and its nerve roots. ...
Spinal stenosis risk factors include:
Spinal stenosis complications vary, depending on which nerves are compressed.
Cervical stenosis complications
Lumbar stenosis complications
Preparing for your appointment
If your family doctor suspects that you have spinal stenosis, he or she may refer you to a doctor who specializes in disorders of the nervous system (neurologist). Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you might also be referred to a spinal surgeon.
What you can do
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Spinal stenosis can be difficult to diagnose because its signs and symptoms resemble those of many age-related conditions. Tests may be needed to help pinpoint the true cause of your signs and symptoms.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Treatments and drugs
The goal is to relieve the pressure on your spinal cord or nerve roots. For example, a laminectomy removes the back part (lamina) of the affected vertebrae to create more room within the spinal canal. In some cases, vertebrae also may need to be fused together to maintain the spine's strength.
In most cases, surgery helps reduce spinal stenosis symptoms. But some people's symptoms stay the same or get worse after surgery. Surgical risks include infection, a tear in the membrane that covers the spinal cord, a blood clot in a leg vein and neurological deterioration.
Laminectomy enlarges your spinal canal to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves. This pressure can be caused by a variety of problems, including bony overgrowths within the spinal canal (...
Lifestyle and home remedies
For cervical stenosis
For lumbar stenosis
Last Updated: 2010-03-11
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