What is spinal stenosis? 

Spinal stenosis happens when the spaces in the spine narrow and create pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots. The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that comes out of the base of the brain and runs down the center of the spine. The nerve roots branch out from the cord. In spinal stenosis, the narrowing usually occurs over time.

Who gets spinal stenosis?

Anyone can get spinal stenosis; however, your chances of developing the disorder go up as you age. Spinal stenosis also can happen in younger people who are born with a narrow spinal canal or who have an injury to the spine.

What are the symptoms of spinal stenosis?

Symptoms of spinal stenosis happen when the spaces within the spine narrow and put pressure on the spine. This occurs most often in the lower back and neck. For most people, symptoms develop slowly,  and some people may not have any symptoms.

Symptoms of spinal stenosis in the lower back can include:

  • Pain in the lower back.
  • Burning pain or ache that spreads down the buttocks and into the legs, that typically worsens with standing or walking and gets better with leaning forward.
  • Numbness, tingling, or cramping in the legs and feet. These may get worse when you stand or walk.
  • Weakness in the legs and feet.

Symptoms of spinal stenosis in the neck may include:

  • Neck pain.
  • Numbness or tingling that spreads down the arms into the hands.
  • Weakness in a hand, arm, or fingers.

What causes spinal stenosis?

Aging and age-related changes in the spine, injury, other diseases, or inherited conditions can cause narrowing of the spaces.  

  • Aging and age-related changes in the spine happen over time and slowly cause spinal stenosis. They are the most common causes of spinal stenosis.
  • Arthritis is also a common cause of spinal stenosis. Two forms of arthritis that may affect the spine are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Other conditions such as tumors of the spine, fractures from injury or other medical conditions, and Paget’s disease of bone may also cause spinal stenosis.