Spinal stenosis refers to narrowing of the spinal canal. Spinal stenosis develops when either the spinal canal or nerve passageways become narrow due to normal wear and aging, or because of compression from a nearby disorder such as a herniated disk. Stenosis is most commonly caused by the aging process, but some patients are born with narrowing of the spinal canal. However, most cases of lumbar or cervical spinal stenosis occur in patients over age 55 and results from aging and wear and tear on the spine.
There are two main types of spinal stenosis, lumbar and cervical. They are essentially the same condition except that they occur at separate parts of the spine and cause very different symptoms. Lumbar spinal stenosis is noticeably more common, as the lumbar is the largest portion of the spine. The discs in the lumbar spine become less spongy as you age, resulting in reduced disc height and bulging of the hardened disc into the spinal canal. Cervical spinal stenosis, on the other hand, is more threatening because it can compress the spinal cord and has a higher incidence of irreversible neurological problems. Mild stenosis of either region can be treated conservatively for an extended period of time.
Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis
- Mild to severe lower back pain
- Weakness or numbness in the legs and buttocks which improves with sitting
- Difficulty walking or standing
- Burning and tingling sensation in arms or legs
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
- poor balance or poor dexterity