Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal. The spinal canal is located in the backbone. It is a small space that holds the nerve roots and spinal cord. If this space becomes smaller, it can squeeze the nerves and the spinal cord. This causes pain and other symptoms. Stenosis can occur anywhere along the spinal cord. It is most common in the low back (lumbar) region.

  • Causes

    Some people are born with narrowed canals. Most often stenosis is a result of aging. Conditions that can cause spinal stenosis include:

    • Osteoarthritis
      and osteophytes (bony spurs) associated with aging
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Spinal tumors
    • Trauma
    • Paget's disease
      of the bone
    • Previous surgery

  • Definition

    Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal. The spinal canal is located in the backbone. It is a small space that holds the nerve roots and spinal cord. If this space becomes smaller, it can squeeze the nerves and the spinal cord. This causes pain and other symptoms. Stenosis can occur anywhere along the spinal cord. It is most common in the low back (lumbar) region.

    Spinal Stenosis
    Nuclus factsheet image
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

    Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:

    • Ultrasound
    • X-ray
    • CT scan
    • MRI scan

  • Prevention

    There are no guidelines for preventing spinal stenosis.

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that increase your chance of spinal stenosis include:

    • Being born with a narrow spinal canal
    • Age: 50 or older
    • Previous injury or surgery of the spine

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms include:

    • Numbness, weakness, cramping, or pain in the legs and thighs
    • Radiating pain down the leg
    • Abnormal bowel and/or bladder function
    • Decreased sensation in the feet causing difficulty placing the feet when walking
    • Loss of sexual function
    • Partial or complete paralysis of legs

  • Treatment

    Treatments include: