Spinal stenosis

Medical Specialties: Family practice, Orthopedics, Physical medicine & rehab


Clinical Definition

Spinal stenosis is a degenerative condition, which occurs due to narrowing of the spinal canal. The facet joint may also become enlarged. The narrowing or compression of the canal causes pressure on the nerve roots and spinal cord. Multiple areas of the spine can be involved including the cervical and lumbar area. Although it can be congenital, spinal stenosis is often due to age related abnormalities, such as a bulging disc or thickening of the ligaments in the back. 


In Our Own Words

The column of bones running down the back are called the vertebra. The vertebra are stacked on top of each other, and each one has a hole in the middle of it. That space is known as the spinal canal, and it holds the spinal cord and the nerve roots.

 

When the spinal canal becomes narrow, the condition is referred to as spinal stenosis. As we age, and sometimes specifically because of aging vertebral discs, the bone that forms the spinal canal can harden and take up more space, leaving a smaller canal. The narrowing of the canal squeezes or puts pressure on the nerves and spinal cord causing symptoms. Spinal stenosis can develop in any area of the spine from the neck to the lower back. Some people are born with a narrow spinal canal, but in most instances, it is due to age related changes. 

Relevant Conditions
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Degenerative change (spondylosis)
  • Arthritis
  • Congenital spinal stenosis
Common Types
  • Age-related, degenerative
  • Inflammatory/Congenital/Other
Side Effects
  • Lower back pain
  • Pain radiating down the legs
  • Numbness, weakness in the legs
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sources
  • American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Lumbar Spinal Stenosis. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org. Accessed September 2013.
  • Mount Sinai Hospital. Spinal Stenosis. http://www.mountsinai.org. Accessed September 2013.
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