Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of openings in the spinal bones, usually in the lumbar area, which creates pressure on the spinal cord and/or nerves. About 75% of cases of spinal stenosis occur in the low back (lumbar spine).
- Aging: With age, the body’s ligaments can thicken. Spurs may develop on the bones and into the spinal canal. The cushioning disks between the vertebrae may begin to deteriorate. The facet joints also may begin to break down. All of these factors can cause the spaces in the spine to narrow.
- Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis
- Heredity: If the spinal canal is too small at birth, symptoms of spinal stenosis may show up in a relatively young person. Structural deformities of the involved vertebrae can cause narrowing of the spinal canal.
- Instability of the spine or spondylolisthesis.
- Tumors of the spine: Abnormal growths of soft tissue may affect the spinal canal directly by causing inflammation or by growth of tissue into the canal. Tissue growth may lead to bone resorption or displacement of bone and the eventual collapse of the supporting framework of the spinal column.
- Trauma: Accidents and injuries may either dislocate the spine and the spinal canal or cause burst fractures that produce fragments of bone that penetrate the canal.
Spinal stenosis may result in low back pain as well as pain in the legs. Stenosis may pinch the nerves that control muscle power and sensation in the legs. Additional symptoms may include frequent falling or clumsiness; pain and difficulty when walking; and/or numbness, tingling, hot or cold feelings in the legs.
Spinal stenosis can be treated several ways. Treatment options include changes in posture, medications, rest or surgery.