Home > Spinal Stenosis

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal Stenosis is a condition characterized by the narrowing of the spinal canal (‘stenosis’ meaning ‘narrowing’), causing the area between vertebrae to become smaller, which in turn creates pressure on the spinal cord and/or spinal nerves. The added pressure can lead to swollen and inflamed nerves, pain, weakness, and numbness in various parts of the body.

Common Spinal Stenosis Causes

There are two types of spinal stenosis: In lumbar spinal stenosis (the more common of the two), pressure on the lower parts of the spinal cord leads to pain and numbness in the legs. In cervical spinal stenosis (the less common but more dangerous of the two), pressure on the upper spinal cord (neck) leads to pain and numbness in the shoulders and sometimes legs.

Spinal Stenosis CausesSpinal stenosis can result naturally from old age (often affecting people aged 50 and over whose spinal canal changes in shape/size), or from osteoarthritis, a previous surgery/injury, or disc degeneration (disc wear and tear). Symptoms may develop over time or occur suddenly.

Spinal stenosis can also lead to a condition known as neurogenic claudication, characterized by weakness and cramping pain in the legs and calves. It can also lead to sciatica – a condition wherein the spinal nerve roots in the lower back are compressed, leading to pain, tingling, or numbness which originates in the lower back and buttocks and radiates down the thigh and leg.

Non-Surgical Spinal Stenosis Treatment Options Include:

  • Exercise

  • Activity modification – i.e. walking while bent over, leaning on a walker/shopping cart instead of walking upright, stationary bike riding (as opposed to walking), sitting in a recliner instead of a straight-back chair

  • Epidural injections – An injection of cortisone may temporarily relieve symptoms of spinal stenosis

  • Anti-inflammatory medications

If/when a person can no longer walk sufficiently or take care of himself/herself properly, lumbar spinal stenosis surgery may be recommended, designed to increase a person’s tolerance so that they can do more activity with less pain.